The Massachusetts Abandoned Property Law (M.G.L.c. 200A), protects consumers in a variety of ways. In addition to ensuring that property that is escheated to the Commonwealth under the unclaimed property laws, these laws also help ensure that false claims are not filed, offers protection from “heir finders” and requires businesses to retain records for certain periods of time.
What is unclaimed property?
While most people think that unclaimed property is primarily bank accounts, mutual fund accounts and contents of safe deposit boxes, there are other types of unclaimed property including court-ordered restitution payments, payments from insurance companies and deposits with utility companies. In fact, there is also property that is abandoned every year from residents in nursing homes including jewelry, cash and other personal property.
Are Massachusetts laws different from other states?
In fact, Massachusetts has one of the most consumer-friendly set of unclaimed property laws. In addition to not accepting claims from heir finders or property location services for a minimum of 24 months, anyone who files a claim on behalf of another person must post bond. This bond must be in the amount of $100,000 and still requires the person who is the rightful owner of the property to contact the state.
What is the process for claiming property?
Massachusetts unclaimed property laws allow account owners, their heirs or administrators (or executors) of an estate to file claims by mail or online. To identify potentially abandoned property, users need only search the online database by last name, print a claim form and return it with the required documentation. In most cases, the claims are processed within 12 weeks. Claims are processed only after three levels of scrutiny to ensure that the rightful owner gets the property and to prevent fraudulent claims.
Physical property such as the contents of safe deposit boxes is sold at a public auction 12 months after it is turned over to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, companies that turn property over to the state still have an obligation to maintain records for that property based on the unclaimed property laws in Massachusetts.
Claimants may file claims at any time as the assets are held by the Commonwealth in perpetuity for the owner of the property or for their rightful heirs. The Commonwealth continues to try to locate the property owner by placing lists of property in newspapers annually for all types of abandoned property including insurance payouts. In addition, they have an active outreach program that is administered through the Abandoned Property Division. During these programs, staff members go to statewide events including local fairs, malls and nursing homes.