“Abandoned property” refers to accounts in companies or financial institutions that have been inactive for at least one year. Types of abandoned property include savings and checking accounts; securities and dividends; uncashed payroll checks; insurance payments or refunds; rental or utility security deposits; and contents of safe deposit boxes.
Dormant accounts, unclaimed dividends, and other inactive holdings must be turned over to the State after inactivity for a set period of time, usually between two and five years. Companies and banks will attempt to notify you of your unclaimed funds before turning them over to the State, and are required by law to publish newspaper listings of the names of those who have unclaimed funds. Once the assets are turned over to the State, the Comptroller will act as custodian of your funds until they are claimed.
To find out if the NYS Comptroller is holding money or securities to which you may be entitled, search their database at https://ouf.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/ .
If you cannot locate anything in the database but think you may have unclaimed funds, you can write, phone or email:
Office of the State Comptroller
Office of Unclaimed Funds
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12236
Provide your current address, previous address, previous names you may have used, and current or previous business names and addresses. If an account is found, the state may request certain further proof (such as bank passbooks, proof of address, proof of ownership of stock, etc.) before a claim is paid.
The State will never charge you for searching the records, submitting proof, or returning your abandoned property.
People may also locate assets held by New York State on their own by checking the list of abandoned property published in the “Abandoned Property Supplement” of the New York State Register, published by:
New York State Department of State
162 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
The Supplement is published twice a year and can be found in most libraries as well as offices of town and county clerks.
Each state has its own unclaimed assets and property office. If you have moved across state lines, you may want to check each state’s office.
Abandoned Property Locating Services
Abandoned property locating services may send mailings to people whose names appear on a published list of abandoned property and charge a fee, often in advance, in exchange for the name and code number of organizations that previously held the property now held by the New York State Comptroller.
Some consumers have complained to Better Business Bureau that they have received letters from abandoned property locating services that make exaggerated and, in some instances, misleading claims. Some consumers have alleged that they have paid the fee requested by the firm only to find that the state held $3 or less of their money.
New York State Regulations
The Office of Unclaimed Funds will release abandoned property only to entitled persons, persons who can present approved power of attorney from a claimant, legal heirs or to attorneys duly hired by the claimant to handle affairs. It is never necessary for a claimant to work through an attorney or assign power of attorney to another to obtain funds, but if an attorney is used, the NY State Abandoned Property Law provides in Section 1416 that:
Different regulations may apply to assets located in another state or if the property has not been registered with the comptroller as abandoned property. Consumers should contact the State Comptroller or Treasury Department in the state where the assets are being held.
Rightful Owner Locating Services
Persons may also be notified by a locating service that they may be “heir” to an unclaimed asset not yet held by the state. Corporations, banks, insurance companies, trustees and attorneys retain such services to find missing persons for whom unclaimed assets are being held, before turning them over to the State. These assets are not yet considered abandoned property, because they have not been turned over to the state. Therefore, under these circumstances the New York State Abandoned Property Law - including the limitation of the fee to a maximum of 15% - does not apply.
All fees should be understood in advance. They are often based on a percentage of the value of the recovered asset and are contingent upon the rightful owners not having been previously aware of his or her entitlement to the unclaimed asset. Fees are generally paid only upon successful recovery. Before entering into an agreement to locate unclaimed assets, a person should examine and understand the terms and fee schedule before signing a contract.
Consumers who have experienced questionable marketplace issues with businesses in this category, such as abandoned property or rightful owner locating services, may file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau through its website at newyork.bbb.org.
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