Sometimes when a person dies, the spouse or other family know what assets or property the person owned. These could include anything from real estate to bank accounts, stocks to home furnishings, even pets to stamp collections. However, experienced probate attorneys know that there are often hidden or unknown assets which should be included in the estate. Therefore, some investigation can be warranted. This blog entry is intended to discuss one source which should be investigated.
In Florida, as in many states, the Department of Financial Services has a Bureau of Unclaimed Property. It operates a website known as "FLTreasureHunt.org" where you can search for unclaimed property. The site allows a person to search using a person's name and to discover whether any assets have been turned over to the state as unclaimed.
Unclaimed assets or property turned over to the state can vary. Sometimes a bank account has been closed but unpaid interest had accrued and the bank had no where to place the interest. In other cases, a person may have owned stock which generated dividends but the transfer agent had no place to deliver the dividends. We've even seen life insurance policies where the insured died and the insurer had no beneficiary to whom the death benefits could be paid.
Every Personal Representative of a probate estate and Trustee of a Trust in Florida should take advantage of this site. Doing so commonly leads to assets about which the family, and perhaps even the deceased, did not know. In fact, if a deceased person lived in other states as well as Florida, then searches should be done in those states as well. Because processing a claim for unclaimed property can take some time, these searches should be done well before the estate or Trust is closed.
On a personal note, last year my mother passed away and at the time I thought we knew about all of her assets. However using the FLTreasureHunt.org site, we found almost $8,000.00 in unclaimed property. As far as we could tell, this money came from a small life insurance policy on my father's life. After he died years ago and no one claimed the benefits, the insurer had turned the benefits over to the state. If we had not checked this site, this money would never have been collected by her estate.