Not-So-Safe-Deposit Boxes: States Seize Citizens' Property to Balance Their Budgets

Of course, there are some states who handle their people's property with respect. Oregon never takes title to unclaimed property. Instead, it holds it in a perpetual trust fund.

Colorado uses the interest on its unclaimed property fund to pay for some state programs, but leaves the principal untouched.

Missouri, Iowa and Kansas make extra efforts to reunite people with their property –even setting up booths at state fairs to get the word out. The State of Maryland actively compares the names on unclaimed accounts with state income tax records. If it finds a match, the state simply cuts a check and sends it to the citizen.

Protecting Your Property

So, the question for citizens is, how do you protect yourself?

Make contact with your bank, your brokerage firm, etc. at least once a year, in a way that creates a paper trail. Make sure they have your current address.

If you own stock, occasionally vote your proxies or take other steps to keep your stock ownership active. Stay in touch with your broker.

Write a list of all your accounts and keep it with your will, so your heirs will know where to look.

Consider insuring valuables even if you keep them in your safe-deposit box. That way, you're covered financially if the bank or state makes a mistake and empties your box. Plus, safe-deposit contents have been known to be destroyed by fire or flooding.

If you want to search for unclaimed property in your name, you do not need to pay other people to do it for you. Check out the following links for more information:

National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators

www.missingmoney.com

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