by Paul Stevens
If you are like us, you may have moved to a new address, or have some stocks and funds stashed away for a possible rainy day fund. In the late 90s my parents purchase some shares of a company for a Christmas present. It was just a few shares, and a very nice jester. We decided to just take the common thinking of throw it in a drawer and forget about it; maybe someday it might be worth something.
We moved since then to another state, we thought it odd that our youngest son, who also received a few shares, would each year received a few cents of dividends, but never thought about why we didn’t receive any. It wasn’t really worth the time or hassle to find out. A stock certificate should be just like a savings bond; no matter where you are you should just be able to cash it in, right?
A few weeks ago we received a form letter in the mail from a claims company reporting they had discovered unclaimed funds in our names, and for a 10% finder’s fee they would help us reclaim these funds. We just about trashed the letter as junk mail, but noticed it did have our old address, the company’s name, but the funds were over $1,000. We assumed it was probably related to the dividends, but no way could a few cents be accumulated to this type of funds. We still thought this was some type of scam that they wanted us to pay some finders fee.
Instead of taking the bait on the letter we finally decided to contact the company’s investor relations department and inquire about our account. When we finally got through the telephone maze and talked to a live person we were stunned to find that our account had a zero balance, and had been so since 2002. After inquiring further the company said they apparently lost contact with us even though we were custodians on our younger sons account, they had closed our stocks out and sent our funds to the state unclaimed funds division.
We went to the state website, and within a few seconds our names appeared with the funds waiting to be reclaimed. We are in the process now of sending in the paper work to get back what we thought we had all along. If we didn’t find this out we could of eventually lost the funds.
After doing some more checking we decided to close out the small bank savings account we also had out of state. Apparently and depending on state law funds that sit dormant for a period of time can also be subject to the unclaimed fund laws. The time frames vary between states.
You can Google state unclaimed funds and most states will have links showing where to go and check. We are now in the process of checking every state that we have lived in to be sure we don’t have other funds. We don’t think so, but we have over the years been with electric and phone co-ops who do pay part of those funds back, and who knows perhaps a deposit for something else may be due to us.
It is very possible that a deceased relative may also have unclaimed funds that you would be a direct heir to, so check those names out as well.
You don’t need a third party to find this information out it is all public information. If nothing else it is just good to know the state laws in your state.