Wisconsin Office of the State Treasurer

Unclaimed Property


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1.   WHAT IS UNCLAIMED PROPERTY?

Generally, any financial asset that has had no activity by its owner for a period of 1 year or more. This includes savings accounts, checking accounts, uncashed dividends, stocks, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, matured life insurance policies and uncashed death benefit checks. The law also requires that utility deposits, unclaimed wages and property resulting from business dissolutions be reported as unclaimed property after one year of inactivity. The Unclaimed Property Act does not include real estate.

2.   HOW DOES PROPERTY BECOME UNCLAIMED?

Property becomes unclaimed or abandoned when there has been no owner activity in relation to the account for a period of 5 years and when the owner has not been able to be contacted by the holder of that asset. A holder may include a bank, savings institution, credit union, insurance company, business or utility company.

3.   WHY DOES WISCONSIN HAVE AN UNCLAIMED PROPERTY LAW?

The law was enacted in 1970 to enable Wisconsin residents to search in one place for missing funds.  After 1 to 5 years of inactivity Wisconsin businesses are mandated to turn over all unclaimed money, stock, and safe deposit box contents to the State Treasurer's Office.  This process relieves businesses from the expense and liability associated with carrying unclaimed property on their financial records.  Most importantly, the process benefits Wisconsin residents because the State makes an active effort to reunite all rightful owners with their unclaimed property.

4.   WHO ADMINISTERS THE LAW?

The State of Wisconsin serves as custodian of the property on behalf of the owner.

5.   WHAT HAPPENS TO UNCLAIMED PROPERTY WHEN THE STATE OF WISCONSIN CANNOT LOCATE THE RIGHTFUL OWNER?

The State of Wisconsin acts as a custodian for abandoned funds and holds these funds in perpetuity. In other words, there is no time limit for claiming your money from the State. If at any time you can prove ownership of legal rights to the unclaimed funds, the State will approve payment to you or your heirs without charge.

6.   HOW MUCH AND WHAT KIND OF PROPERTY IS INVOLVED?

Each year, millions of dollars in bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds and un-cashed checks are turned over to the State Treasurer because the owners cannot be located. Safe deposit box contents as well as intangible financial assets, such as stock certificates and bonds are reported to the State.

7.   WHY IS THE STATE OF WISCONSIN INVOLVED?

The purpose of the law is to identify and protect financial assets which have remained dormant for a period of 2 years or more and to hold it in custody until the rightful owner comes forward to claim it. Remitting the assets to the state allows the owners or their heirs to have a single source to check for unclaimed property instead of trying to check with hundreds of banks, insurance companies, employers and utility companies.

8.   WHAT EFFORTS ARE MADE BY THE STATE TO FIND THE RIGHTFUL OWNERS?

The State has a number of methods by which it tries to locate owners. Besides our annual advertisements in newspapers throughout the state, names of unclaimed property owners are cross-matched with public record information retained by other state and federal agencies. The State Treasurer and his staff attend public events, such as the Wisconsin State Fair, SeniorFest, and others so event attendees can search the Unclaimed Property Database and receive information regarding the claims process.

 

9.   HOW CAN I AVOID HAVING UNCLAIMED PROPERTY?

Here are ten ways to ensure that your property is not turned over to the State:

1. Make sure that you update addresses with insurance companies, investor relations and utility providers.

2. Promptly cash all refund, rebate and dividend checks.

3. Respond to stock shareholder service requests for action.

4. Resolve insurance claims in full.

5. Identify co-owners or beneficiaries of financial and investment accounts.

6. Automaticwithdrawal for safe deposit box rental fees.

7. Purchase cashier's checks and money order at finacial institutions where you have accounts.

8. Use store or vendor credits within 1 year.

9. Update financial/investment accounts following marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or name change.

10. Inventory type/location of financial assets and provide to trusted advisor/friend.