We can talk all we want about saving money and being frugal and all of the personal finance things we talk about, all designed to build and protect our wealth. We can save and buy smart and cut our own hair and buy low and sell high. We can amass a fortune.
But if we’re not careful it can all be for naught.
If you’re not even more careful than you think you need to be, you could wind up like these people, who got their assets seized by their state and sold.
“The 50 U.S. states are holding more than $32 billion worth of unclaimed property that they’re supposed to safeguard for their citizens. But a “Good Morning America” investigation found some states aggressively seize property that isn’t really unclaimed and then use the money — your money — to balance their budgets.”
Yes. And they’re taking the property with little or no effort to find the rightful owners. This woman had active accounts at the bank that held her safe deposit box:
“Carla Ruff’s safe-deposit box was drilled, seized, and turned over to the state of California, marked “owner unknown…Her great-grandmother’s precious natural pearls and other jewelry had been auctioned off. They were sold for just $1,800, even though they were appraised for $82,500.”
“California law used to say property was unclaimed if the rightful owner had had no contact with the business for 15 years. But during various state budget crises, the waiting period was reduced to seven years, and then five, and then three. Legislators even tried for one year. Why? Because the state wanted to use that free money.”
Really, click on the link. The whole article gets even more disturbing.
And it’s not just safety deposit boxes. It’s dormant accounts, or accounts your parents or your grandparents forget they have. It’s the savings account you started when you were six, or the stock account you started and haven’t looked at since the crash of ’87.
We have to stay organized, or get organized. We need to know what accounts we have and where. We need to maintain contact with the companies we do business with.
It’s NOT just a matter of “set it and forget”, like my father’s favorite Ronco item promises.
We have to protect what’s ours. And a large part of protecting our assets is keeping close track of them.
Very scary stuff, indeed.
I’m going to reprint the information they suggest here:
Protecting Your Property
So, the question for citizens is, how do you protect yourself?
Make contact with your bank, your brokerage firm, etc. at least once a year, in a way that creates a paper trail. Make sure they have your current address.
If you own stock, occasionally vote your proxies or take other steps to keep your stock ownership active. Stay in touch with your broker.
Write a list of all your accounts and keep it with your will, so your heirs will know where to look.
Consider insuring valuables even if you keep them in your safe-deposit box. That way, you’re covered financially if the bank or state makes a mistake and empties your box. Plus, safe-deposit contents have been known to be destroyed by fire or flooding. The insurance company I worked for offered a 70% discount on items kept in a vault as long as they were not removed for more than seven days per year.
If you want to search for unclaimed property in your name, you do not need to pay other people to do it for you. Check out the following links for more information:
National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators
You work hard for your money, and your family leaves you treasures because they want YOU to have them. Please, please keep an eye on them…