Did you know that banks, insurance companies, corporations and courts are required by law to report dormant accounts to the New York State Comptroller? These organizations must attempt to notify you by mail and publish this information in newspapers. Nevertheless, many funds remain unclaimed and are turned over to the Office of the State Comptroller. New York State has approximately $17 billion in unclaimed money. Each day New York State returns $1.5 million of unclaimed funds to those who file claims with the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
A guardian or executor of an estate—anyone acting as a fiduciary –should search for unclaimed funds. Such a fiduciary has a legal obligation to collect all assets and must make reasonable efforts to search. Some assets are easy to find – real estate, retirement accounts listed on tax return, and bank accounts. Others, such as a lost life insurance policy or uncashed checks from the state, are elusive. New York’s unclaimed fund website makes this process much easier and lawyers use the website regularly on behalf of clients.
If you are in the process of handling a loved one’s estate, you should search for potential unclaimed funds online using only a person’s name. If there is no court appointed estate representative, the following individuals can also submit a claim on behalf of the owner: a surviving spouse, blood relative, and creditors (e.g., someone who paid the funeral expenses). Proof needed depends on the claimant’s relationship to the deceased.
A claim for unclaimed funds can be submitted to the Office of the New York State Comptroller online or by mail. It is important to know that the Comptroller’s Office never charges a fee for returning unclaimed funds. Beware that there are companies that search for unclaimed funds and contact the owner or estate representative to notify that such funds have been located. These companies will charge a fee in exchange for assisting in recovering such unclaimed funds. There is never a need to pay a fee.
For more information on locating and collecting unclaimed funds in New York State, you can visit the Office of the New York State Comptroller’s “Unclaimed Funds” webpage at this link.