Do You Have Unclaimed Property in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey returned $125.1 million in unclaimed property and funds to residents in 2014. According to the The Unclaimed Property Administration, 70,762 people submitted claims during the 2014 fiscal year.
So what is this unclaimed property? It is tangible and intangible possessions that have remained unclaimed by their rightful owner. This means that unclaimed property can range from a stamp collection worth thousands to bank accounts worth millions.
In fact, included in the $125.1 million in unclaimed property and funds that NJ returned to residents this year was a $1.3 million estate that belonged to a Hudson County family and $424,000 in bank checks that belonged to an Ocean County man.
Of course it is logical for you wonder, How in the world does someone not realize they have a million dollar estate or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank checks? During the normal course of business, an individual or business may misplace or lose track of checks issued to them or bank holdings.
An important part of estate planning is knowing exactly what property you own and what it is worth. Let’s say you have multiple heirs and you would like to leave them equal assets and property. To do so, you need to know about all the property that is rightfully yours. If you’re an heir and your relative recently passed away, you also want to make sure that he or she does not have any unclaimed property or assets.
Property is presumed abandoned after the rightful owner fails to claim it within a certain period of time. In New Jersey, this period is determined by the type of property. For example, for bank accounts, checks or drafts, money orders, stocks, dividends, and distributions and shares in a financial institution, the allotted time is three years. Safe deposit boxes are presumed abandoned after five years and proceeds from class action suits are considered abandoned after only one year.
When property is presumed abandoned, it is turned over to the Unclaimed Property Administration of the State of New Jersey Department of Treasury. This occurs so that “stale” property is not taken by banks and other financial institutions. Essentially, the state safeguards your property until it is returned to you. In addition, the state strives to locate rightful property owners through various methods, including mass mailings and media campaigns.
It is also important to keep in mind that since this property is rightfully yours and not income, it is not taxable. If you believe that you may have unclaimed property, you may conduct your own search by visiting NJ’s Unclaimed Property Administration’s website and following the appropriate links.
Should you discover that you have unclaimed property, your next step is to file a claim. The Unclaimed Property Administration will then send you a claim packet which details the unclaimed property being held as well as a request for documentation to establish your ownership/identity. If you have further questions about unclaimed property or about estate planning in North or Central New Jersey, feel free to contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 908-236-6457 at your convenience.