Posted By Larry Tolchinsky on April 22, 2012
What is Unclaimed Property and Why is Probate Sometimes Necessary?
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned property) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes. Most government agencies use the term “unclaimed property” instead of “unclaimed money.” It’s government speak and typically refers to money — not real estate.
Sometimes people inherit money and do not know about it right away. If a close relative dies, it is wise to check the unclaimed funds website online to determine if you are entitled to the money. Even when a person dies intestate, the closest relatives usually inherit some of the assets. If you find that there is unclaimed money (either public or private) in the name of a deceased relative, in most instances, it is necessary to hire a probate lawyer to do a summary administration, for unclaimed property worth less than or equal to $75,000, or a formal administration for unclaimed property worth more than $75,000. The reason is that the governmental entity requires someone with legal standing to receive the property and the only way to do that in Florida is through a probate proceeding.