Finding something you lost long ago is one of life’s little pleasures. There’s a certain satisfaction in coming across a wayward sock that’s been hibernating under your dryer or sticking a hand into the pocket of a winter coat and discovering a secret cache of dollar bills. You might have figured your lost items were gone forever, or maybe you even forgot they existed in the first place – even though they were, and are, rightfully yours.
Many people don’t realize that this can happen with assets more substantial than errant laundry or spare change wedged between couch cushions. In the financial world, unclaimed property such as uncashed checks, unexchanged shares, or dormant or lost accounts, can be stuck in limbo for long periods of time, seemingly out of reach of their rightful owners. This situation, which leads to escheatment, happens when an account is dormant or when assets appear to be unclaimed or abandoned. Fortunately, there are ways to reunite people with their lost property.
Getting separated from your assets is not as unusual as you might think. In fact, it happens to the tune of millions of dollars every year. Because every state sets its own rules defining when an account is considered dormant or abandoned, escheated property can languish out of sight, and out of mind, for years.
Reasons why your assets might enter the escheatment process
Some of the more frequent causes include:
- Not being an active shareholder. Failing to vote your proxy at annual meetings or leaving your dividend checks uncashed may lead to your account being considered abandoned or dormant.
- It’s a good idea to contact your transfer agent annually, even just to check your balance and ensure the account looks good. Lack of contact with the transfer agent can result in states’ interpretation that the asset is abandoned, and they will fall into the escheatment review.
- Not keeping your information current. If you move, make sure to notify companies that you have an interest in. The post office will only forward first-class mail to your new address for one year; other mail pieces – sometimes important shareholder information – could be returned as undeliverable after just a couple of months.
- Not informing companies of your new name. If you change your name due to marriage, divorce, or any other reason, be sure that the companies holding your investments are aware. If you don’t, that can make it that much more difficult to verify your ownership.
- Failing to tell your heirs about your investments. You may hope that your beneficiaries will be able to track down all your holdings after your death without knowing where to look, but they may overlook some key assets. It is likewise important to ensure that beneficiary information is on file with the companies holding your funds. If the IRS reports that your Social Security number is assigned to a person who is now deceased, your investment company might classify your account as dormant or abandoned if there are no beneficiaries designated.
What to do if you suspect you have unclaimed assets
If you have questions about possible unclaimed assets or if you want help preventing assets from potentially becoming lost, you should reach out to a company that specializes in escheatment.
EQ has proprietary platforms focused on reducing escheatment impact and fraud by reuniting shareholders and rightful owners with their assets. They do this by getting connected with the rightful owners of disconnected assets, such as holdings or dividends, and guiding them through the process of reclamation.
Discover how you can benefit from EQ Unify today
EQ's Unify Asset Reunification Services are designed to help put people back in touch with dividends, stocks and shares considered lost or unclaimed.