Find out how to secure unclaimed property assets that belong to you and ensure that your assets won’t go unclaimed upon death.
Q: When my father died, he owned a home and bank accounts. As his only child, I am the sole beneficiary of his estate. Since I was abroad and held antipathy for my father at the time of his death, I did not learn of his passing until two years later. Recently, I received a letter from a treasure broker for unclaimed property in Florida stating that my father had substantial assets remaining from bank accounts plus a deficiency balance remaining from a foreclosure on his home. Can I secure unclaimed property assets from my father without the need for a treasure broker? Where would I begin to look for these assets?
A: Money or property that belongs to you could be sitting in a state unclaimed property office, just waiting for you to claim it. There are billions of dollars belonging to millions of people sitting unclaimed at state escheat offices. If the property is not claimed it may “escheat” to the state, meaning it becomes the property of the state. Relatives who file for the unclaimed property of a deceased person in Florida must file within 10 years, before it escheats to the state. In other words, at that time, the state becomes the absolute property owner.
Most unclaimed property becomes abandoned due to a change of address, a name change or death of the owner when the estate was unaware of the money or the heirs could not be located. Often, an owner knows about an asset but is unaware that it has been declared abandoned and turned over to the state. One of the most common ways that property becomes unclaimed is when someone dies without a Last Will and institutions such as banks, credit unions, and insurance and investment companies are unaware of who the beneficiaries are or where and how to locate them.
Be careful about hiring someone to locate your unclaimed property. There are professionals who make a living tracing the owners of unclaimed property. They typically request a fee ranging from 10 percent to 60 percent of the value of the property. Why use a tracer when you can contact the state of Florida yourself at www.FLTreasureHunt.gov? In many cases, you may be required to hire an estate probate attorney to transfer ownership of inherited assets.
Who would you rather receive your belongings, your chosen beneficiaries or the state? Avoid your property becoming the property of the state by doing proper estate planning. If you have no Will or Trust, your assets may end up in the hands of the state, or someone claiming to be your heir, simply because your intended beneficiaries were not notified that you had died.
About the Author
Kristen M. Jackson is the founding partner of Jackson Law PA (407-363-9020). She is experienced in estate planning, real estate law, business and contract law. Her firm has earned an AV rating by Martindale-Hubbell signifying the highest level of professional excellence as obtained through opinions from members of the bar and judiciary.