Every state has an unclaimed property program holding forgotten property belonging to its residents such as uncashed checks, security deposits, abandoned accounts, and more. “Unclaimed property” generally refers to tangible (items in safe deposit boxes) and intangible (bank accounts, stocks, and checks) personal property. Eventually, the state takes over the unclaimed property in a process known as “escheatment.”
In New Jersey, the Unclaimed Property Administration is a section of the Department of the Treasury. The Mission Statement of the Unclaimed Property Administration is set forth on its website and reads as follows:
“The Unclaimed Property Administration (UPA) recovers and records abandoned or lost intangible and tangible property. The UPA’s goal is to return this property to the rightful owner and/or heirs. The New Jersey Unclaimed Property Statute ensures that property owners never relinquish the right to this property and the UPA only acts as a custodian until the property is returned.”
The unclaimed property law is set forth in Title 46 of the New Jersey Statutes at N.J.S.A. 46:30B-1 et seq., and in the New Jersey Administrative Code at N.J.A.C. 17:18 et seq.
In estate administrations, it is a good idea to check the Unclaimed Property Administration website for any abandoned property in the name of the decedent. This simple practice often leads to the discovery of assets that had been unknown to the family. It is best to look into the matter of a decedent’s unclaimed property early in an estate administration, because the assets must be included on any required inheritance or estate tax returns.
When is Property Considered Abandoned?
New Jersey property is generally presumed abandoned if it has remained unclaimed by the owner, or if there has been no activity other than automatic activity (interest posting on a bank account is considered automatic activity) for more than three years. After unclaimed property is given to the state by a business, the owner or the owner’s heirs must reclaim it from the state. Note that the state does not take over the funds but instead holds them as custodian until claimed. There is no time limit on filing a claim, because New Jersey never assumes ownership of unclaimed funds. The funds are held by the state in perpetuity until claimed by the owner or owner’s representative.
Responsibilities of Businesses
New Jersey businesses have a number of responsibilities concerning unclaimed property. Initially, written notice must be sent to the apparent owner of the unclaimed property, if known. If the property remains unclaimed, businesses have annual filing and reporting requirements to the state. Most importantly, after the applicable time period businesses are required to turn over all unclaimed property to the state, and penalties apply to businesses that fail to comply with any of these requirements.
The claims process is relatively straightforward, although locating the required documents can be time-consuming. The owner’s name and town of residence is entered on the UPA website, which then produces a list of possible claims. A claimant then selects and submits the appropriate claims via the website. Shortly thereafter the claimant is emailed information with a claim number or numbers, and the documents required to support the claim (death certificates, proof of ID, executor’s or administrator’s short certificates, and the like) with directions to either mail the necessary documents or to upload the documents through the website.
Payment of Claim
After the required documents are provided, a check will issue in payment of the claim, including interest on the assets from the date of receipt by the state to the date of return. In our experience, it can take from one to two months for a claim to be processed. You may check the status of your claim by entering the claim ID on the website or by calling the UPA directly. The UPA staff are usually quite helpful.