2 min read

Finding Unclaimed Property

Finding Unclaimed Property

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences that a person can go through. The strain of the process can be compounded when one has to start settling the estate of the deceased - especially when an estate planning process was not put into place prior to death. A common question families have is “How do I know if we found all the assets of the deceased?” This is a valid question when one thinks about unintentionally leaving the assets of a family member or loved one unclaimed or in the hands of the state instead of passing them along to their desired beneficiaries.

In a perfect world, all of us have the proper estate planning documents, a written list of our assets and an easy to navigate way to keep track of all our accounts (we use a software that does exactly this for our clients - click HERE to learn more). However, if we’re honest, unless someone guides us to do this, most likely it never happens. This means that assets of the deceased often go unclaimed due to simply not knowing they exist.

The good news is that financial institutions eventually receive deceased alerts from credit bureaus to help fight identity theft and notify them of individuals who have passed away. When this happens, listed beneficiaries will be notified via a letter or begin receiving statements on the account. This can take time though and is by no means an overnight process. However it should provide a (small) level of assurance that assets of a deceased individual will not go unnoticed.

Yet deceased alerts by no means catch everything. As such, every year in Montana millions of dollars and other personal assets go unclaimed. As a result the Montana Department of Revenue encourages individuals and businesses to check whether some of that might be theirs. The unclaimed property can come from a variety of sources such as forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks and money orders, insurance policy payments and unused gift certificates, as well as stocks, bonds and the contents from safe deposit boxes.

By law, the Montana Department of Revenue holds unclaimed property in trust indefinitely for owners to claim. Beneficiaries can search public records of their state by searching unclaimed property records. For example, in the state of Montana, one can visit https://tap.dor.mt.gov/_/ and search “unclaimed property” to see if anything comes up under their or the deceased’s name. If something does come up, there is a simple process the website will guide them through to claim the assets. Every state has something similar to this and one should search any state the deceased has lived in. Each search can be done without hiring a company to do it for you - just make sure you’re heading to a state approved “.gov” website versus a private company that will charge you a fee to search for you.

Dealing with inherited assets can be tough both logistically and emotionally - even in the best of situations. Throw in a few unexpected issues (i.e. family disputes, untimely loss, no estate planning documents) and it can be one of the most stressful situations you’ve ever had to deal with.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. If you have questions about what to do with inherited assets, the rules associated with inherited IRAs, or the process in general we’re here to help.