FAQ’s of Mass. Unclaimed Property
What is Unclaimed Property?
Any financial asset with no activity by its owner for an extended period of time. This includes savings accounts, checking accounts, unpaid wages or commissions, stocks, underlying shares, uncashed dividends, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, money orders, paid-up life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes, and uncashed benefit checks, gift certificates, etc. Unclaimed Property does not pertain to land, houses or real estate of any kind.
How does property become “unclaimed”?
In accordance with the Massachusetts Unclaimed Property Act, Chapter 200A of M.G.L., property becomes “unclaimed” when the owner cannot be contacted for a three-year period by the holder of the asset, or for fifteen years in the case of traveler’s checks. The Massachusetts Unclaimed Property Law ( M.G.L.c. 200A), requires business entities and others to review their records each year to determine whether they are in the possession of any unclaimed funds, securities or other property which is reportable under Chapter 200A and to make an annual report of their findings.
Why have unclaimed property laws?
To protect the property rights of owners and reunite them with their funds.
To provide a central point of contact for owners to claim unclaimed funds.
To relieve holders of liability
How can I prevent my assets from becoming “unclaimed”?
Cash all dividend checks, insurance benefits, and wages, no matter how small. This will qualify you as an active owner.
Making deposits into accounts annually, even as little as one dollar will be considered activity.
Alert all concerned parties to any changes in your address.
Keep accurate financial records of bank accounts, stocks, safe deposit boxes and insurance policies.
What does the State do with the money?
While unclaimed assets are deposited in the Massachusetts General Fund on an annual basis, owners can always claim their financial assets at any time. All funds earn interest until claimed.
How do I contact the Unclaimed Property Division?
You may call us during our normal business hours of Monday-Friday 8:45am to 5:00pm EST at 617-367-0400 or 1-800-647-2300 (toll free Massachusetts only)
You may also write to us at:
Department of the State Treasurer
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Unclaimed Property Division
One Ashburton Place, 12th Floor
Boston, MA 02108-1608
What attempts does the Office of the State Treasurer make in finding owners?
The Treasurer publishes the names in newspapers across the State. In the case of life insurance companies the names are published in September of the same year following the report and for all other property the names are published in March of the year after the report.
A mail notice is sent to the owners last known address.
The Unclaimed Property Division has recently started an outreach program. This program allows Unclaimed Property staff to visit different events and locations i.e. fairs, nursing homes, malls, etc. in an attempt to reunite owners with their unclaimed property.
How long do I have to file a claim?
There is no time limit for filing claims. The state holds unclaimed assets in perpetuity and in trust for the rightful owners.
Is there a charge for using this service or filing a claim?
No, this is a public service provided by the Department of the State Treasurer.
How long does it take to process a claim?
It takes approximately 12 weeks to process a claim.
What is the claim process?
There are three levels of approval after the Division receives a claim form:
Level One approval is first required to determine if the claimant has supplied proper documentation. If not, a letter will be sent to the claimant explaining what documentation is missing from the claimant’s original submission.
Level Two approvals will occur after an examination of the returned documents determines that the claimant is the correct individual and eligible to make a claim.
Level Three approvals are given after verification of all documents provided are in good order and that Level One and Level Two approvals have been properly granted. Once it has been determined that all necessary documents have been provided, and in good order, a claim is approved for payment.
What is considered proper evidence to verify a social security number?
Social Security Card
Pay Stub containing social security number
What is considered proper evidence to verify a previous address?
Old Utility Bill
Document from previous city/town hall stating old address
Old deed or mortgage payment
Old check with proof of former address
What if I have a small amount of money reported to the State?
Presently the law allows holders to turn over small accounts in lump sum or “aggregate” to the Division. These names are not published in the paper or posted on this web site. However, all the accounts are available for claim. To claim a small amount of money reported to the State in your name please contact the Unclaimed Property Division at 617-367-0400 or 1-800-647-2300 (toll free Massachusetts only)
What is an heir finder?
An “heir finder,” sometimes known as an heir-searcher – or researcher – is an individual who will attempt to reunite an owner with his or her unclaimed assets for a fee. The majority of “heir finders” are responsible and work within the law.
However, there are many scams associated with Unclaimed Property and we urge you to contact our office before signing any agreement.
Do not pay a fee in advance for researching services. By law, heir finders may not charge more than 10% of your property’s value to help process your claim. The State Treasury can provide this service free of charge.
What is a holder?
A holder is an organization – bank, insurance company, business, etc. – that has been in possession of a financial asset.
What attempts do holders make to find owners?
In accordance with Massachusetts General Law c. 200A, Section 7A, a due diligence notice must be sent by first-class mail to every owner’s last known address at least 60 days prior to filing a report and turning over assets to the Unclaimed Property Division.
Why is the process for claiming stock longer than claiming cash?
Stocks take longer to process because a transfer agent must issue a new stock certificate, which can take up to 30 days. Longer delays can be avoided if a claimant provides the Unclaimed Property Division with their brokerage account number and the “DTC” number of their brokerage company. A claimant can obtain this information by contacting their respective brokerage company.
What does the State Treasurer do with personal property other than cash, i.e. safe deposit boxes, turned over by banks?
The Treasurer attempts to locate the owners or their heirs by advertising the names in local papers. If an owner is located the property is returned. If not, the personal property is appraised and put up for public auction.