Did you know that there are billions of dollars in unclaimed property throughout this country? The possible existence of unclaimed money is an issue which should be addressed when handling the estate of a deceased family member. If an individual passes away but did not leave documentation regarding some of their financial accounts or assets, those funds may go unclaimed, in which case they will be sent to the State. People placed in charge of managing a deceased family member’s affairs are often ill-equipped to locate unknown estate assets. As a result, estate assets often go undiscovered. Fortunately, there are tools and resources available to help alleviate this problem.
Unclaimed property registries are important tools for determining whether your loved ones left undiscovered assets. Every state has an unclaimed property registry, and you should search the databases in each state in which the deceased lived, owned a home, worked, or did business. While some commercial services allow the search of multiple state registries at a time, such as http://www.missingmoney.com which searches 38 different states, there is no better source than the individual state websites.
In Michigan, the unclaimed property registry is run by the Department of Treasury. This database can be searched by going to http://www.michigan.gov/treasury/0,4679,7-121-44435---,00.html. If a deceased relative appears to come up on the registry, you can claim the property by following the instructions found here: http://www.michigan.gov/treasury/0,1607,7-121-44435_57506---,00.html. A similar process can be utilized in other states, and the different state unclaimed property registries can be found by initiating an internet search for the state followed by the words “unclaimed property.”
In addition to the unclaimed property registry, Michigan has recently implemented a system specifically for dealing with unclaimed life insurance policies. The Department of Insurance and Financial Services (“DFIS”) started the “Life Insurance and Annuity Search Service,” or “LIAS.” Information about the program can be found at: http://www.michigan.gov/difs/0,5269,7-303-12902_70492_70599-345270--,00.html.
To participate in the LIAS program, one must complete a form online that contains information about the deceased. Once submitted, the DFIS will forward the request to every life insurance and annuity company authorized to do business in Michigan on a monthly basis. Each insurance company will determine whether there is an unclaimed life insurance policy or annuity, and if one is found, the insurance company will notify the DFIS, who will in turn, notify you. The DFIS will not notify you of a result, however, unless you are legally authorized to receive information, which you would be if you are the personal representative of the person’s estate, or if you are a beneficiary of the policy or contract.
The LIAS program represents a step forward in responding to the issue of unclaimed property in Michigan. Whether the deceased party lived in Michigan or elsewhere, anyone administering an estate should check the unclaimed property registries. If you have any questions about finding unclaimed property or if you need assistance with an estate, please do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Shifman & Carlson, P.C. today at 248.406.0620.