|Reclaiming lost bank accounts
Don't you think it would be next
to impossible to forget about or lose track of one of your bank
accounts? How about not remembering a safety deposit box crammed
with stocks, insurance policies and jewelry? No way, right?
Well, millions of Americans do forget about their
accounts. Sometimes they move and the bank can't find them, or they
die without telling family members about an account.
Susan Burrage of Rockport, Mass., is $5,500 richer
after finding money and stock her mother left behind without telling
anyone. Burrage's mother was living in St. Petersburg, Fla., at
the time of her death. One day Burrage got a letter from a company
saying they had sent her mother's stock account to the state of
Florida because the account had been dormant for so many years.
Burrage then got a letter from another company that specializes
in locating people and heirs who have unclaimed money.
"But they were going to take a percentage of the money,"
says Burrage. "So I decided to find out on my own what was going
on. When I called Florida to ask about the stock account, they said
they had a file of missing things -- five different accounts."
What happened was the accounts were dormant so long
they were escheated to the state. Every state has its own time frame.
A savings account might be considered dormant if there were no transactions
for 365 days. That dormant account, depending on the state, would
be escheated, or handed over, to the state anywhere from three to
five years later. Some banks charge a fee when an account goes dormant,
but they have to try to notify the customer first. They send a notice
to the last known address and remind the customer there hasn't been
any activity on the account. Some customers respond, others ignore
the letter and some never get the letter because they've moved or
Thirty days before the account is about to be escheated
to the state, the bank makes a last ditch effort to find the customer.
At First Union headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., that job falls to
Te Messerle and the eight people in her department. They take that
job very seriously.
Show me the money
"Last year we escheated to all 50 states," says
Messerle. "We started with 43,855 accounts. By the time we finished
we actually only turned over 8,337 accounts to the states. We started
with $317,793,987.65 and turned over $14,004,925.47. We saved the
bank $303 million."
Banks want to find people who have dormant accounts.
They don't want to send that money to the state; they want to keep
it in the bank.
Messerle says she was determined to find an elderly
woman who had a $110,000 dormant account.