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How To Protect Your Assets From Reverting To The Government

Mar 21, 2008
Did you know that each year, all across the country, states search for the rightful owners of millions of dollars that have been sitting idle in financial institutions? It's called unclaimed property or abandoned property and it's more common than you might expect.

In Colorado alone, more than $100 million has been returned to residents - and former residents - since the state instituted its Great Colorado Payback in 1987. In 2007, approximately $9 million in unclaimed property was returned to rightful owners and heirs in that state. And that's just Colorado!

You may have seen ads in your local newspaper listing the names of people with unclaimed property and thought, "Who doesn't know where all their assets are?" Look at how many names are on that list. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in that situation, many times simply because they've moved, changed marital status or died.

What is this unclaimed property? It can be uncashed paychecks, stock dividends, utility deposits, escrow or insurance policies and trust funds. After a specified time of inactivity -- usually one to five years -- the property is given to the state, which then has the responsibility of finding the owners or heirs.

Sadly, a lot of abandoned and unclaimed property consists of items left behind in safe deposit boxes. Countless people think they're safeguarding their valuables by placing them into these bank boxes, but family heirlooms and other important items are sometimes lost forever when the owners die, move or simply forget about them. While money can be held indefinitely, states simply can't hold onto the contents of safe deposit boxes forever.

Just as each state has its own laws about how long property can remain idle before it reverts to the state, once the state gets the abandoned items they set a time limit of how long they'll hold it before it is auctioned off to the highest bidder or sold. And while the proceeds are held in perpetuity for the owners or heirs, the items themselves can't be retrieved.

So what kind of things are auctioned off? Well, anything that can be put in a safe deposit box. From heirloom jewelry to false teeth and even the ashes of dearly departed loved ones and pets. There are coin collections and silver - things people thought they were protecting, that are now up for grabs and many times sold for less than market value.

If the thought of your valuables and heirlooms winding up on Ebay or in the hands of strangers, there are things you can do to make sure that doesn't happen. Unfortunately, many people aren't properly prepared and don't have the necessary paperwork in order.

Through asset awareness and tracking, you can protect your assets and reduce the financial stress that you and your loved ones will have to go through in the event that something happens to you unexpectedly.

Taking the time now to incorporate this process into your life and planning is critical, because protecting your assets is far easier than reclaiming them.
About the Author
Marcia Keppy is an expert in the field of unclaimed property. She has helped numerous individuals, accountants, lawyers and financial advisors track and discover personal assets. For more details on how to protect your assets and search for unclaimed property go to http://www.assetawareness.com.
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