What happens to a deceased person’s property if no one comes to claim it?

hundred dollars heap

Identifying a deceased person’s financial accounts is one of the more difficult tasks in administering an estate.  What happens to bank accounts when someone dies? What if you miss an account and no one ever comes to claim it?

The law governing this situation in Georgia is called “Escheat”, aka the “Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.”  Under  Georgia law, if the bank loses contact with the account holder (often when the owner dies and his estate does not seek the account assets) the bank (the “holder”) would have five years (the “holding period”) to attempt to make contact with the owner.  If after five years the funds are still unclaimed, the bank must remit them to the State of Georgia.  The holder must also provide annual reports of the funds’ status to the State of Georgia during the holding period.  Notably, the bank will continue to withdraw fees from the account, as illustrated in this article forwarded to me by my colleague J. Cleveland Hill:

Not even death stops banks from collecting fees.

After the holding period, the funds go to the State of Georgia.  If an heir or beneficiary later discovers the funds,  they can be reclaimed from the State.   You can search for Georgia unclaimed property here:

Georgia Unclaimed Property Search.

There are some lessons to be learned here.  For those engaged in estate planning, it is incredibly helpful to leave an inventory of assets, accounts, life insurance policies, digital accounts and login information, etc. with your estate planning documents so that your beneficiaries can locate all of your funds and keep them from becoming unclaimed property.  For those in the process of administering  a decedent’s estate, it may be prudent to do an unclaimed property search to make sure you have located all of the decedent’s assets.  Note also that the State of Georgia will return unclaimed property free of charge, so be wary if you are approached by an individual or company seeking to do so for a costly fee.

 

CAVEAT:  This web site and the information contained herein have been prepared for educational purposes only.  The information on this blog does not constitute legal advice, which would be dependent upon the specific circumstances of a particular case.  In addition, because the law can vary from state to state some information on this site may not be applicable to you.

Image © Andrey Kuzmin – Fotolia.com

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About Sarah R. Watchko, Esq.

Sarah R. Watchko is an attorney practicing estate planning and elder law in Atlanta, Georgia

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