California Unclaimed Property Law: Everything You Need to Know

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Written By AndrewPerry

Founded in 2015 by a group of passionate legal professionals and enthusiasts, FlowingLaw started as a small blog. Today, it's a thriving community where ideas, expertise, and legal advice flow freely.

 

 

 

 

Ever wonder what happens to forgotten bank accounts, uncashed checks, or abandoned safe deposit boxes? Well, they don’t just vanish into thin air. In California, such assets fall under the purview of the unclaimed property law. Intrigued? Read on to uncover the mysteries of California’s unclaimed property law and how it might affect you.

What is Unclaimed Property?

Unclaimed property refers to assets or accounts in financial institutions or companies that have had no activity or contact with the owner for a year or more. This can include savings accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, or even forgotten utility deposits. When these properties remain untouched, they are turned over to the state to hold until claimed by the rightful owner.

Types of Unclaimed Property

Here’s a quick rundown of what might be considered unclaimed property in California:

  • Bank accounts: Savings or checking accounts with no activity.
  • Uncashed checks: Payroll, dividends, or refunds.
  • Safe deposit boxes: Abandoned or unclaimed contents.
  • Insurance benefits: Unclaimed life insurance payouts.
  • Securities: Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  • Utility deposits: Unclaimed utility deposits or refunds.

The California Unclaimed Property Law

California’s unclaimed property law mandates that businesses report and deliver unclaimed property to the state controller’s office after a specified period of inactivity. The law aims to protect the property owners’ interests and ensure their assets are returned to them.

History and Purpose

The law was enacted to prevent companies from using unclaimed assets as their own and to ensure that owners could recover their property even after many years. Essentially, it’s a consumer protection initiative that benefits the public.

Reporting Requirements for Businesses

Businesses are required to make diligent efforts to locate property owners before transferring assets to the state. This includes sending notices to the owner’s last known address. After three years of inactivity and no contact, the property must be reported to the state.

How Does the Process Work?

  1. Identification: The business identifies unclaimed property through dormant accounts or uncashed checks.
  2. Notification: Attempts are made to contact the owner.
  3. Reporting: If unsuccessful, the property is reported to the state.
  4. Transfer: The unclaimed property is transferred to the state controller’s office.
  5. Claiming: Owners can search for and claim their property through the state’s unclaimed property website.

How to Search for Unclaimed Property

If you’re curious whether you have any unclaimed property waiting for you, California has made the search process quite straightforward. Here’s how you can go about it:

Online Search

  1. Visit the State Controller’s Website: Head over to the California State Controller’s Office website.
  2. Enter Your Information: Use your name and any known business names to search the database.
  3. Review Results: Check if any of the results match your information.
  4. File a Claim: If you find a match, follow the instructions to file a claim.

Mail or Phone

Alternatively, you can also reach out via mail or phone. However, the online search is usually the quickest method.

Claiming Your Property

So, you’ve found some unclaimed property. Now what? Claiming your property is a simple process but requires proof of identity and rightful ownership.

Required Documentation

Be prepared to provide:

  • A copy of your identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.).
  • Proof of address (utility bill, lease agreement).
  • Any documentation linking you to the unclaimed property (bank statements, insurance policies, etc.).

Steps to File a Claim

  1. Complete the Claim Form: Available on the state controller’s website.
  2. Gather Documentation: Collect the required documents.
  3. Submit Your Claim: Send your completed form and documentation to the state controller’s office.
  4. Follow Up: Monitor your claim status online or contact the office for updates.

Common Questions About California Unclaimed Property Law

What Happens to Unclaimed Property After It’s Turned Over to the State?

Once the property is turned over, the state controller’s office holds it indefinitely. Owners or heirs can claim the property at any time without any time limit.

Are There Any Fees to Claim Property?

No, the state does not charge any fees to claim your property. However, if you use a third-party service, they might charge a fee for assisting you.

Can Property Be Sold by the State?

Yes, the state may sell securities and other properties after a certain period, but the proceeds are still available to be claimed by the rightful owner.

The Impact of California Unclaimed Property Law

Benefits to Owners

  • Protection: Ensures your property isn’t lost or misused.
  • Accessibility: Provides a straightforward way to reclaim your property.

Responsibilities for Businesses

  • Compliance: Must adhere to reporting and transfer requirements.
  • Diligence: Required to make genuine efforts to contact property owners.

Conclusion

The California unclaimed property law serves as a critical consumer protection measure, ensuring that forgotten or abandoned assets are returned to their rightful owners. Whether you’re a business needing to comply with the law or an individual curious about unclaimed assets, understanding this law is crucial.

FAQs

How Long Does It Take to Process a Claim?

Typically, it takes 90 to 120 days to process a claim, provided all necessary documentation is submitted.

Can Heirs Claim Unclaimed Property?

Yes, heirs can claim unclaimed property by providing documentation proving their relationship to the deceased owner.

Is There a Deadline to Claim Property?

No, there is no deadline. You can claim your property at any time.

What Should I Do if I Find Unclaimed Property?

If you discover unclaimed property, follow the steps outlined on the state controller’s website to file a claim and provide the necessary documentation.

Authoritative Links

For further reading and authoritative information, consider visiting the following URLs:

  • California State Controller’s Office: www.sco.ca.gov/upd_msg.html
  • National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators: www.unclaimed.org
  • IRS Unclaimed Funds: www.irs.gov

This article has provided a comprehensive overview of California’s unclaimed property law, its significance, and how it impacts both individuals and businesses. Stay informed and proactive in reclaiming any lost assets – after all, it’s your money waiting to be found!