by Jody H. Hall, Paralegal
I have been working with a client whose mother passed away more than ten years ago. Due to the passage of time, mergers, corporate name changes and stock splits, and a variety of other circumstances, quite a bit of her property had been turned over to the State of Colorado as unclaimed property. However, contrary to what some may believe, all is not lost! These assets still belong to her, and in this case, to her legal heirs. The claims process is relatively easy and can even be initiated online – you just have to start the search!
The Great Colorado Payback (the “GCP”) is a division of the Colorado State Treasurer. They are charged with “reuniting Coloradoans with their lost or forgotten assets” – what an amazing job description! The GCP regularly receives proceeds of bank accounts, stock certificates and dividends, oil and gas royalty payments, utility refund payments, the contents of safe deposit boxes and more from “holders” (financial institutions or other entities in possession of these assets) that have lost contact with the rightful owner. The current list maintained by the Colorado State Treasurer contains more than 1.7 million names!
Our firm routinely recommends that our newly-appointed personal representatives check the state’s website for any unclaimed (sometimes referred to as abandoned) property for recently deceased individuals. A GCP representative recently educated me about the dormancy period, which is 5 years from the last customer-initiated contact. Holders typically do not turn over the accounts to the GCP until the expiration of this dormancy period. Going forward, I will begin to check the GCP list again immediately prior to closing an estate in order to ensure that no assets belonging to the decedent, but not discovered by the personal representative (for example, statements may not be sent to the owner, and therefore received by the PR, if the holder had an old address), have been reported during the pendency of the estate (or trust) administration.
In addition to the Unclaimed Property List, the GCP office maintains an Estate of Deceased Owners and Dissolved Corporations List. Pursuant to escheat law, it is not until twenty-one years after an estate is probated or a corporation dissolved, and their funds are turned over to the State Treasury that those funds become property of the State and are deposited into the Public Education Fund. So even for a probate estate where there are no known heirs at the time of the estate administration, there is still time for the rightful heirs, should any be located, to receive their inheritance. Please note that the proper claim procedure in this instance involves obtaining an order of distribution from the probate court.
For more information or to check to see if a client (deceased or alive), or even YOU, have forgotten assets on the list, go to www.colorado.gov/treasury/gcp/. For links to other states, check out www.MissingMoney.com or www.unclaimed.org.
Be sure to consult the FAQ’s and instructions on the website to include all of the required information for your claim, particularly with assets of deceased individuals. Now that you have found the lost assets, you do not want missing paperwork to delay your receipt even longer.