Monday, July 20, 2009

Lost Inheritances

The Sacramento Bee reports that California's unclaimed property program is sitting on billions in forgotten money owed to thousands of businesses and individuals. It's from dozens of sources: overlooked bank accounts; stocks, bonds and dividends; uncashed paychecks; abandoned safe deposit boxes; misplaced insurance policies; utility bill refunds; or even that security deposit from your first college apartment.

In the last five fiscal years, California's unclaimed property office has returned $1.37 billion from more than 1.4 million accounts held by individuals and businesses, according to state controller's spokesman Jacob Roper.

How could so many lose track of so much?

"A lot of larger assets we're holding are inheritances that people don't know about," said Ruth Holton-Hodson, who oversees the state's unclaimed property program. "Older generations were very private about their incomes and often didn't share that with their children. They search our site and find, 'Oh, my goodness, Grandma had a bank account or Aunt Sally had 15 shares of GM.' "

In California you look at or call 800-922-4647. In other states and Canada the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has a site at

At Hughes Estate Group, we see unclaimed property issues as a sign of extraordinarily poor or nonexistent estate planning. Even for those with plans in place, the lesson here is simple: COMMUNICATE. You must communicate with your beneficiaries and fiduciaries where a complete list of all your assets and your will and trust can be found when you are gone.

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