Friday, January 19, 2007


A week after my father’s claim application mailing had arrived I received a similar package for the claim of my uncle’s estate. This one involved much more work, and it ended up being almost six months until the check was finally received by my father.

Because my uncle was deceased I had to provide different kinds of documentation. As my father had thrown out all the estate paperwork I had to purchase a new death certificate from the state (total cost $25.00 for the certificate and $20.45 for “shipping and handling”). I also had to get a currently dated certified Surrogate’s Certificate from the county, which cost $15.95.

When all the required documentation was finally in hand I submitted the paperwork, including a notarized Declaration/Agreement form signed by my father as Executor. A few weeks later the Declaration/Agreement form was returned by Trenton. Because my uncle’s will had named two “co-Executors”, my father and his bank, the claim had to also be signed by a representative of the bank.

As with most banks in the area, the original bank had been purchased by another institution (fortunately there was only one turn-over – other banks in the area have changed names several times). So I could not simply go back to the Trust Office we had originally dealt with 16 years ago. The biggest delay and amount of aggravation in the processing of the claim for my uncle’s property came in dealing with the bank.

To make an already long story short, after I was initially sent on a wild goose chase by the bank, and my subsequent request that someone from the bank co-sign the claim form was totally ignored, I sent a letter of complaint to the President of the bank, which got a prompt response and a signed and notarized claim form. I submitted this to Trenton and just last week my father received a check for more than $2,300, also the result of the liquidation of shares of MetLife, corresponding dividends, and interest.

So that is how I (or my father) made over $4,500 by watching GOOD MORNING AMERICA (or some other morning news program)!

According to the
National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators there is more than $24 billion in unclaimed assets nationwide, waiting for someone to claim them. However, NAUPA reports that only 1.3 million people filed claims to recover $1.2 billion last year, which represents just 5% of the money being held by the states.

Some common types of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividend, payroll and refund checks, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders and gift certificates, insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, utility company deposits, customer overpayments, mineral royalty payments and the contents of safe deposit boxes.

Each state has an unclaimed property law that calls for customer-abandoned assets, generally after there's been no account activity for a year, to be turned over to state officials. You should go to your state’s website and do a search. Who knows – you, too could end up with over $4,500!

As an aside, one of the morals of my story is never name a lawyer, bank, brokerage or other institution as the “co-Executor” of an estate. If you want your brother to be the Executor, make him the sole Executor. If you want a lawyer or bank Trust Department to be the Executor, make him or it the sole Executor.

And another aside – each of the two claims were assigned to a different state employee. My emails to these two state workers always received a prompt and helpful response, and their responses during the processes indicated a real interest in my situation.



Anonymous said...

the demutualization proceeds arose as the result of paid up life insurance policies, probably still held by met life. Did you think to collect these policies? If not, call met life' inquiry # at (800) 638-5852.

Please blog about what you find.

Thanks, Lisa

Robert D Flach said...

Lisa -

MetLife had tracked down my father regarding an open insurance policy, apparently taken out by my uncle with my father as beneficiary, about two years before I did the online search, and he eventually received the proceeds from the policy. I assume that this was the policy that led to the MetLife shares.

I do not recall the actual circumstances of how they tracked him down – whether they wrote directly to him or if the notice was addressed to my uncle at his former home and forwarded to my father.

My father was not aware that the policy had existed. We had found nothing about it when going through my uncle’s files 15 years ago.

As it turns out, my father received more money from the MetLife shares and dividends than he did from the actual insurance policy!

Thanks for your interest!


Unknown said...

Nice story.. we had a similar experience with my wife's deceased grandparents.

We have also recieved about $6000 in "lost" dividends from stock that got abandoned (and the stock of course).

What are the tax consequences of unclaimed property? Does money received count as income or since it was already mine is it not taxable?

Just curious...