In April 2021, the Florida government held this year’s virtual unclaimed property auction, in which state residents can place their bids online and acquire items such as collectible coins, high-value baseball cards, and other dozens of high-end unclaimed items.
Currently, the state of Florida is holding approximately $2.3 billion in unclaimed property, just waiting for the rightful owners to take a step further and claim what is theirs. However, many people are still clueless about how easy claiming an unclaimed property is.
In this article, you will discover how to claim unclaimed property in Florida.
Unclaimed Property in Florida – An Explanation
The term unclaimed property refers to any financial asset that is unknown or lost, or has been left inactive, unclaimed, or abandoned by its owner(s). In Florida, the most common types of unclaimed property include:
- Contents of safe deposit boxes abandoned in financial institutions
- Dormant bank accounts
- Unclaimed insurance proceeds
- Used gift certificates
- Cashier’s checks
- Royalty payments
- Deposits/credit balances/refunds
- Inactive savings accountings
In case the holder is unable to find the owner and return the asset, it is reported and remitted to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Unclaimed Property.
Typically, the period an unclaimed property item can be held before it must be reported to the state is five years.
What Are the Procedures Followed by the Florida Division of Unclaimed Property To Designate an Asset as Unclaimed Property?
Once a holder (business or government entity in possession of an asset) finds out that the owner of an asset is unknown, or there is no possibility to locate and re-establish contact with the owner of an asset, it will be reported and remitted to the government.
It is worth noting that before proceeding to the escheatment (turning the unclaimed property over to the state), holders must go through the due diligence, meaning they need to make one final attempt to locate the property owner.
Once the asset is remitted to the Florida Division of Unclaimed Property, the asset will be identified and held by the government until its rightful owner decides to claim it.
How Does the State Government Handle the Unclaimed Funds?
In Florida, all unclaimed funds are deposited into the State School Funds, which has the purpose of supporting public schools and improve educational structure at the state level.
Nonetheless, the original amount reported can always be claimed by its rightful owners or heirs. When the holder’s attempts to locate the owner of an asset fails, they report the property to the Department along with its owner’s name, last known address, and other information.
Once the asset is submitted to the Department, the entity will act as its custodian for the State of Florida, but never claiming the legal ownership of the asset itself. While the asset is held in custody, the state uses distinct methods trying to notify owners (e.g., database searches).
Claiming Unclaimed Property in Florida
The first step to claiming unclaimed property in Florida is to start by searching the interactive database at the FLTreasureHunt.Gov website. This official page is available 24/7, completely free of charge.
On the website, claimants are allowed to initiate a claim process online for assets they believe they are entitled to claim. Thus, the page provides specific instructions that claimants must follow to prove they are the rightful owners of an unclaimed asset.
It is recommended that claimants try to search all known names while trying to find unclaimed property, including maiden names, married names, and nicknames. Then, it is time to file the form and sign it before mailing it to the Department.
Each claim form will detail the documentation claimants are required to provide, which generally includes a claimant’s ID, a current mailing address, and documentation proving the ownership of the asset.
Once the form is mailed to the Department, the entity is allotted up to 90 days from the date the mail is received to make a determination. It is possible to check the status of a claim online at the FLTreasureHunt.Gov homepage.
It is crucial noting that having the same name as that on an account does not necessarily establish entitlement, as there are thousands of individuals who share the same names.
In case the original owner of unclaimed property is deceased, his/her heir(s) must provide the required proof of ownership to claim the asset, including a certified death certificate. Regardless, the website provides all necessary information claimants need to claim what is theirs by right.