Topic:
LEGISLATION; ABANDONMENT OF PROPERTY;
Location:
PROPERTY;

OLR Research Report


August 28, 2006

 

2006-R-0507

SUMMARY OF UNCLAIMED PROPERTY LAW AND RECENT AMENDMENTS

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You asked for a summary of Connecticut's unclaimed property law and amendments to it during the past three years.

SUMMARY

Intangible property with some financial value may escheat (revert) to the state once it is presumed abandoned. Such property includes money, money orders, checks, drafts, deposits, interests, stock dividends, bonds, and insurance proceeds. It does not include real estate or household furniture.

The institution or organization that posesses the property presumed abandoned must attempt to notify rightful owners before transferring it to the state. If these efforts fail, the institution or organization must turn the property over to the state treasurer, who is responsible for any ownership or other types of claims in the property. The treasurer places most of the property into a trust account where owners or their heirs may claim it.

The General Assembly passed five acts in the past three years that affect the escheats law. The most significant of these acts is PA 03-1, June 30 Special Session, which reformed the law. In 2004, separate acts made it easier for the treasurer to dispose of escheated property, established a Special Abandoned Property Fund, and altered the duties of financial officers and allowed them to impose dormancy fees. In 2005,

the remaining two acts changed property holders' responsibilities, exempted certain property from the escheats law, and dedicated portions of abandoned property for a specific use.

PROPERTY PRESUMED ABANDONED

Intangible property is presumed abandoned after the expiration of a fixed period of time when there has been (1) no interaction between the holder of the property and the person who either owns or is entitled to it and (2) no attempt by the apparent owner to claim it. Examples of inactivity include deposits or withdrawals from bank accounts. Table 1 shows the period when property is presumed abandoned by property holder and type.

TABLE 1: ABANDONED PROPERTY

Property Holder

Property Presumed Abandoned After (Years)

Banking or Financial Institutions

CGS 3-57a

Three years of inactivity for demand or savings deposit; funds paid to purchase shares or interests in a financial organization or a deposit made with them; sums payable on checks certified in this state or money orders, drafts, or traveler's checks; and most matured time deposits made in this state

Five years of nonpayment of rent for the contents of a safe deposit box or other safe depository

Five years for individual retirement accounts and self-employed retirement plans, starting six months after the date on which federal tax rules require distribution of funds to the beneficiary to begin

Insurance Company

CGS 3-58a

Funds owed and unclaimed become due and payable as established by the life insurance company's records under a life or endowment insurance policy or annuity contract that has matured or terminated if the company has no address for the person, other than the insured or annuitant, entitled to the property

Business Association

CGS 3-59a

Three years from the date for payment or delivery for any unclaimed stock or other certificate of ownership, dividend, profit, distribution, interest, mineral proceeds, or other sum

Ownership Interest in a Business Association

CGS 3-59b

Three years of a person's failure to claim a dividend or other sum, correspond with the association in writing, or otherwise indicate an interest in the business

Fiduciary

CGS 3-61a

Seven years with no increase or decrease in the principle, written correspondence with the fiduciary about the property, or other indication of interest in it, or more than seven years after the owner fails to collect property or income that is payable or distributable

Government

CGS 3-62a

Three years for unclaimed property held by a court, public corporation, public authority, state officer, or political subdivision; except claims against the state for less than $3,000 are presumed abandoned if the property is not collected after one year

Federal Court or Agency

CGS 3-62b

Four years for property and money under the court's custody or control; except one year for refunds, rebates, or tax rebates from a federal agency or department

Decedent's Estate

CGS 3-63a

The date the Probate Court orders the property distributed

Other Property

Mineral proceeds and Insurance company demutualization payments

CGS 3-59a

Remaining unclaimed and no correspondence for three years from the date prescribed for payment or delivery

Wages, other than those collected from minimum or overtime wage law violators and payable under another law to an employee's spouse or next of kin

CGS 3-60b

Remaining unclaimed one year after due, payable, or distributable

Utility deposits, refunds, and other sums owed

CGS 3-60c

Remaining unclaimed one year after due, payable, or distributable

Conditions Raising Presumption

Once intangible property is presumed abandoned, it is subject to the state's custody as unclaimed property if the:

1. last-known address of the apparent owner, as shown on the records of the holder, is in this state;

2. holder's records do not include the name of the person entitled to the property and the last-known address of such person is in this state;

3. holder's records do not reflect the last-known address of the apparent owner and (a) the last-known address of the person entitled to the property is in this state, or (b) the holder is a domiciliary or a state subdivision or agency and has not previously paid or delivered the property to the state of the last-known address of the apparent owner or other person entitled to the property;

4. last-known address of the apparent owner, as shown on the holder's records, is in a state that (a) does not provide by law for the escheat or custodial taking of the property or (b) has a law but it is not applicable to the property and the holder is a domiciliary or a governmental subdivision or agency of this state;

5. last-known address of the apparent owner, as shown on the holder's records, is in a foreign nation and the holder is a domiciliary or a governmental subdivision or agency of this state; or

6. property arose out of a transaction in this state and (a) the last-known address of the property owner or person entitled to it is unknown or (b) the holder is present, and the property owner's last-known address is, in a state that either does not have a law on escheats or custodial taking or the law does not apply to the property in question (CGS 3-66b).

Duties of Holder of Abandoned Property

Before a presumption of abandonment takes effect, the holder of property must notify the property owner that the owner must indicate his interest in the property or it will be transferred to the treasurer and subject to escheat to the state. The notice must be made by first class mail at the last known address. The holder must send the notice no more than 180 days before wages, salaries, compensation, utility deposits, refunds, or other sums are presumed abandoned. Holders have one year to send the notice before other property is presumed abandoned.

With one exception, the holder of property must, within 90 days after the end of the calendar year in which property is presumed abandoned, deliver it to the treasurer and prepare an unclaimed property report. The exception is for personal property in a safe deposit box or other safekeeping repository at a bank or financial institution. The holder must sell this property and turn the proceeds over to the treasurer. Anyone who fails to deliver or report abandoned to the treasurer within

the specified period must pay 15% interest on the property from the date the property should have been delivered or reported. The treasurer may waive the interest upon a showing of a good faith effort to comply.

The treasurer or her designee may examine a holder of property to determine his compliance with the law. She must keep a permanent

record of the reports. She may decline to receive any property that is valued at less than the cost of giving public notice or holding a sale (CGS 3-65a and -65b).

With a few exceptions, a holder may not impose a dormancy, abandoned property, unclaimed property, escheat, inactivity, or similar charge or fee on the property subject to escheat. The exceptions are for demand or savings deposits; funds paid to purchase shares or interests in a financial organization or a deposit made with them; most matured time deposits made in this state; and property in a safe deposit box. However, holders cannot charge an escheat charge or fee on the property subject to the exception (CGS 3-65c).

Recovery of Funds or Property

The treasurer must demand, or request the attorney general to initiate proceedings for, an adjudication when property escheats to the state and take appropriate action to recover it (CGS 3-66c).

Property Held by Federal Courts and Agencies

When property held by federal courts or agencies located in this state has escheated, the state treasurer must take appropriate actions to recover it or ask the attorney general to initiate proceedings to do so. The treasurer must pay all costs incident to collection and recovery of the funds and place the balance in the General Fund. The treasurer must return any monies or property to the federal government if a court order requires the government to make a payment from the escheated funds (CGS 3-62c through 3-62g).

The State's Responsibility to Hold the Property for Its Owner

When property is transferred to the state, the state assumes custody of it (CGS 3-67a). Its owner may make a claim for it. If a person files a certified claim, stating the relevant facts, the state treasurer has 90 days to consider the claim and respond in writing. The treasurer must pay valid claims (CGS 3-70a).

The treasurer may sell all unclaimed property delivered to her, other than money, at a public sale in whatever locality of the state she

determines affords the most favorable market. The treasurer must publish notice of the sale of all property, other than securities, at least two weeks in advance of the sale (CGS 3-68a).

The treasurer must deposit the majority of unclaimed money, including the proceeds from the sale of property, in the General Fund. She must deposit the remaining funds in the Citizens' Election Fund (CGS 3-69a).

Notice by Treasurer

In every even-numbered year the treasurer must cause notice published of all abandoned property reported or delivered to her during the preceding year and valued at $50 or more. She must publish the notice at least once in a newspaper having general circulation in each county in which the apparent property owner was last known to reside. In addition to this notice, the treasurer may make such notice accessible via the Internet or other telecommunications methods (CGS 3-66a).

Special Abandoned Property Fund

The law authorized the State Bond Commission, by June 30, 2005, to issue up to $60 million in special obligation abandoned property fund bonds, plus the costs of financing and issuing the bonds. A Special Abandoned Property Fund is used to repay the bonds. The treasurer deposits into the fund the cash proceeds realized from abandoned property in her custody. Investment earnings become part of the fund assets and any fund balance remaining at the end of the fiscal year is carried forward to the next year.

The treasurer deposits all receipts from abandoned property in the fund until the bonds are paid off. The law gives debt service for the bonds first call on the state's receipts credited to and held in the fund and pledges the fund revenues to repay the bonds. The state and its political subdivisions have no direct or contingent general obligation to repay abandoned property fund bonds and the bonds are not subject to statutory limits on the state's bond debt. The law specifies what the abandoned property bond proceedings and covenants may contain; establishes liens and other security; and makes standard state bond financing, issuing, refunding, investment, and other requirements apply to them. The costs to administer the program are paid from the abandoned property fund (CGS 3-62h).

AMENDMENTS TO ESCHEATS LAW IN PAST THREE YEARS

The escheats law underwent major changes in the past three years, beginning with a comprehensive reform in 2003. Specifically, PA 03-1, June 30 Special Session, (1) reduced the time that must pass before property is presumed abandoned; (2) altered requirements for presuming abandonment, including codifying specific rules for property (i.e., gift cards, mineral proceeds, and wages) that previously fell under a general catch-all provision for abandonment; (3) changed the duties of holders of abandoned property; (4) prohibited holders from imposing abandonment fees; and (5) changed the treasurer's power to examine holders about unclaimed property and changed when she must pay interest on abandoned property.

PA 04-216 eliminated required waiting periods before the state treasurer could sell abandoned property in the state's custody. Under prior law, the treasurer had to wait at least one year after receiving most types of unclaimed property before selling it and, unless she found it to be in the state's best interest to sell sooner, to wait at least three years before selling any abandoned business ownership interests, such as securities.

The act also allowed the treasurer to liquidate all types of unclaimed property as soon as she received it and expressly permitted her immediately to liquidate all unclaimed securities she held.

Lastly, the act established a Special Abandoned Property Fund to repay special obligation abandoned property fund bonds and to serve as a repository for all receipts from abandoned property.

PA 04-2, May Special Session, allowed banks and financial institutions to impose dormancy, abandonment, inactivity, or similar charges or fees on certain property they hold. It also altered the duties of the holder of abandoned personal property from a safe deposit box.

PA 05-189 exempted the value of gift cards from the escheats law. It also relieved holders of abandoned property from liability for interest or penalty if they failed to report or deliver abandoned gift certificates to the state treasurer before August 16, 2003. Otherwise, the law imposed 15% annual interest on unreported or undelivered abandoned property and authorizes the treasurer to waive the interest on a showing of a good faith effort to comply with the law.

PA 05-5, October Special Session, required the treasurer to place a portion of abandoned property proceeds in the Citizens' Election Fund from which payments will be made to candidates participating in a system of public financing for election campaigns.

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