Without even knowing it, your company may have unclaimed-property liability issues with one or more states.
Unclaimed property is intangible property that has not been claimed by its rightful owner after a certain amount of time has lapsed. Common examples of unclaimed property include: uncashed payroll checks, uncashed payments to suppliers, uncashed dividend checks, credit balances due to a customer, customer refunds, unreturned deposits and security deposit-box contents. Unclaimed property laws are based on the common-law doctrines of “escheat” and “bona vacantia,” which are the reversions or forfeitures of real or personal property to the state, due to either the absence of anyone competent to inherit the property or as a result of default. Under most unclaimed-property statutes, states exercise the power of escheat over abandoned property by collecting the property from the holder and assuming a custodial role over the property with the intent of returning it to its rightful owner. For example, if a former employee did not cash his or her last paycheck, the company (as the “holder”) may need to turn these funds over to the appropriate state.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have enacted statutes requiring the reporting and delivery of unclaimed property to the appropriate state by those persons holding such property. Many states have modeled their unclaimed-property statutes based on the Uniform Unclaimed Property Acts drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
In general, unclaimed property is intangible property that:
• Is held or issued in the ordinary course of the holder’s business.
• Represents a debt or obligation of the holder to a creditor or owner.