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6/28/21 9:23 AM

Mortality Searches - Worth It For All Holders In The Unclaimed Property Space

Successful unclaimed property compliance programs undertake multi-faceted approaches to find owners of unclaimed funds that may include proactive searches of life status along with other outreach programs. Insurance companies, financial institutions and other holders must follow not only industry specific laws and regulations (such as SEC Rule 17-Ad-17), but they must also actively monitor and comply with the ever-changing unclaimed property laws. A proactive search and review of the life status of owners and beneficiaries will preserve accounts from the escheatment process, thereby decreasing the reputational risk to the holder and the cost of escheatment, while increasing customer goodwill and potentially driving new business.

While there are no statutory requirements that force holders of banking or securities property to determine whether an owner is deceased, death can be a factor in triggering escheatment for some property types. For example, death is a trigger for ROTH IRAs in most states, and in some states, such as Illinois and Vermont, dormancy periods are accelerated for deceased owners of certain property types. In the states that have adopted a version of the 2016 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA), holders of IRAs, custodial accounts and securities must confirm death within 90 days from the receipt of notice or indication of death.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

6/22/21 9:12 AM

USPS Possible Changes Could Impact Unclaimed Property Due Diligence.

If they haven’t already, holders of unclaimed property should be preparing to send due diligence mailings in advance of the Fall 2021 reporting cycle. Statutory due diligence takes the form of written outreach to the owner at the owner’s last known address, according to the holder’s books and records. The letter puts the owner on notice that his or her property will be reported (“escheated”) to the state as unclaimed property if the owner fails to respond within a specified timeframe, after which the holder will no longer be in possession of the property and the owner must file a claim with the state to reclaim his or her funds.

Due diligence value thresholds, the timing of the mailing, the language required in the notice, and even the method of delivery is determined by the states and vary widely, and in some cases even differ by property and/or holder type. In general, first-class mailings are required to be mailed 60 to 120 days before the filing of the report, but again timing and method of delivery vary.   Additionally, the requirements are ever-changing. The states that have recently enacted revised unclaimed property laws based on the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) have not uniformly adopted the 60–180 day timeframe or the requirement to send an email communication in addition to the first-class mailing, if the owner consented to electronic communications from the holder.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Reporting, Recordkeeping, Best Practices

4/21/21 10:11 AM

The Unclaimed Property Reporting Cycle and Holder Compliance

Businesses are required to report unclaimed property on an annual basis. States differ as to when particular property types are subject to escheat, the type and timing of the due diligence notices that holders must send to property owners before escheating the property, and how and when the property should be reported to the states. The risks of non-compliance can result in penalty and interest assessments and can subject a company to a lengthy unclaimed property audit. Businesses should conduct regular reviews of their unclaimed property processes to ensure compliance with all state unclaimed property laws.

A holder’s obligations during a typical unclaimed property reporting cycle can be summarized as follows, with each step discussed further below:

▪️ Identify dormant property; collect data and review records

▪️ Analyze and apply applicable state laws;

▪️ Perform state-mandated due diligence;

▪️ Report and remit unclaimed property to the states; and

▪️ Retain supporting documentation.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Reporting, Recordkeeping, Best Practices

2/26/21 8:43 AM

Spring 2021: Unclaimed Property Due Diligence, Reporting Tips, and Updates

As we find ourselves preparing for Spring reporting (corporations must start the Spring season by submitting reports to Delaware by March 1st), it is worth highlighting several aspects of the due diligence and reporting processes.

Due Diligence Notices. The due diligence letter is a state mandated requirement that the holder provide notice to the owner before the property is reported and remitted to the state as unclaimed property and is also the holder’s last attempt to establish contact with the owner of dormant property before escheatment.

Method, Timing and Content of the Notice. Typically, a first-class mailing must be sent to the owner 60 to 120 days prior to filing the report, though as is common in unclaimed property, time frames vary state to state. Moreover, certified mail may be required in lieu of, or in addition to, first-class mail (e.g., New York: certified mail for property valued at $1000 or more and for all dividend reinvestment plans). Publication is also required for certain holders in New York, where requirements vary by property type). Many states also provide an exception for mailing to a known bad address, but again, this varies by state.

In states that have adopted a law based on the 2016 Revised Uniform Property Act (“RUUPA”), the time frame for mailing is generally 60-180 days before filing the report, though there are outliers here as well (e.g., Illinois requires notice to be sent 60 days to 1 year prior to the report, and by certified mail for securities valued at $1000 or more, 60 days prior to filing the report). These states have also adopted specific header and language requirements for the notice.

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Topics: Delaware, Due Diligence, Reporting, Best Practices, Vermont

1/26/21 7:48 AM

Unclaimed Property Update: The Department of Labor Issues Guidance Related to Missing Participants

On January 12, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a series of guidance for pension plan fiduciaries related to missing or nonresponsive participants, which can assist them in their review of their policies and procedures surrounding locating these participants and their beneficiaries and as related to uncashed checks.

Best Practices for Pension Plans is a compilation of best practices for fiduciaries of defined benefit and defined contribution plans to locate missing or nonresponsive participants. The DOL stresses the need to maintain updated contact information and to implement effective communication processes to communicate effectively and regularly with participants (made easier by flagging mail or email that is returned undelivered and for uncashed checks) and to document, implement, maintain, and follow policies and procedures around such efforts. The DOL notes that plan fiduciaries may consider the size of the benefit and the account balance and costs associated with search efforts, as the steps taken to locate missing or nonresponsive participants may vary depending on the plan and the participant.
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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

1/18/21 9:36 AM

Unclaimed Property Inactivity - Why It Pays To Be Proactive

Financial institutions, like other entities, must comply with state unclaimed property laws, which include sending customers due diligence notices and reporting dormant accounts to the states on an annual basis.

Banking property, including checking accounts, savings accounts, and certificate of deposits are considered dormant absent owner-generated activity within a period of time defined by the state (typically 3 or 5 years). The recent adoption by several states of revised unclaimed property laws modeled on the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) and the continued introduction of similar legislation (North Dakota and Indiana in early January 2021), illustrates the ever-changing nature of these laws and the need to monitor legislative changes. States adopting a “RUUPA” – like law may adopt the shorter dormancy period (3 years) for most property types, alter the 60-180 due diligence timeframes and/or add the requirement that notice be sent to the owner via first class mail and email (if the owner has consented to electronic mail communications from the holder).

Taking a proactive approach to the escheatment process by communicating early and often with your customers decreases the population of reportable property, meaning less costs associated with due diligence (certified mail, return receipt requested, is required in some states, particularly above a certain dollar threshold) and with the reporting process itself.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

1/8/21 1:07 PM

States Surveyed About International Mail and Covid-19 Pandemic Unclaimed Property Impacts

After the Shareholder Services Association (SSA) and Securities Transfer Association (STA) voiced their concerns via a joint letter to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) regarding the interruption of international mail delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NAUPA sent a survey to its member states in May 2020.  

The apprehensions raised were surrounding the suspension of mail service, which would prevent the successful completion of due diligence and ultimately the reporting property without a last attempt at reunification with the property owner.  It is notable that states may liquidate securities property, making it difficult for the shareholder to retrieve it in its native form.   In connection with ongoing concerns expressed by UPPO and the holder community, NAUPA recently released the responses from 19 states to the following questions:

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Best Practices

9/16/20 8:34 AM

A Proactive Approach To Improve Unclaimed Property Due Diligence

The 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (“RUUPA”) is a model act designed to assist states in updating their unclaimed property laws, which for the most part, are outdated, since they are based on either a 1981 or 1995 version of the act.   Certain provisions of RUUPA address modern technology and have been incorporated into the laws of states that have recently enacted RUUPA-like laws.

For example, RUUPA requires that holders reach out to owners of retirement, securities or custodial accounts that have consented to receive electronic communications from the holder via email no later than 2 years after the owner’s last indication of interest in the property. This pre-due diligence requirement must be followed up promptly with first class mail if the holder lacks an email address for the owner or believes an email to be invalid, if the email bounces back, or if the owner does not respond within 30 days.

RUUPA also requires that if an owner consented to electronic communications, the due diligence notice must be sent via first class mail and email. Both the pre-due diligence outreach and the electronic due diligence requirements have been adopted in Tennessee, Utah, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, and Colorado (email optional), Vermont (effective 1/1/2021), and Nevada. RUUPA-like bills have been introduced in the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin, and we expect additional states to also follow suit.

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Topics: Due Diligence, Reporting, Best Practices

9/3/20 8:29 AM

Unclaimed Property Early Owner Outreach

Customer relationships are the foundation of a company’s success, but if customer assets are escheated to the states as unclaimed property, those relationships could be at risk.  Studies by Bain & Company show that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer and increasing customer retention by 5% can significantly increase a company’s profits.

Millions of dollars are escheated annually. This results in angry customers and lost profits, especially when it is their retirement or savings account. It is therefore important to understand the steps a company can take to reduce the risk of escheatment and increase its’ customer retention rate.

Escheatment occurs when accounts are deemed dormant, which occurs when there has been no “owner-generated” activity on the account for a specified period of time (the dormancy period). If the account owner does not affirmatively act to remove the dormant status of an account, by law, the account must be escheated to the state of the owner’s address once the dormancy period for that type of property has expired. Generally speaking, dormancy periods range from 3 to 5 years.

A 3-year dormancy period may seem like sufficient time in which to reestablish contact with an account owner. However, the time-frame for action is actually shorter, as companies generally do not begin to initiate proactive communication with dormant account owners until the account has been inactive for at least 24 months. Leaving the account inactive until the performance of statutory due diligence (which occurs between 2 and 12 months before escheatment), generally results in up to 80% of those accounts being escheated.

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Topics: Due Diligence, Best Practices

9/2/20 10:35 AM

7 Steps For An Effective Unclaimed Property Compliance Program

Every business is required to report unclaimed property annually. If you are unsure if your company is reporting unclaimed property (“escheating”), start by asking your finance or accounting team members. A few examples of unclaimed property are unpaid or unreconciled liabilities such as payments to vendors, refunds or credits owed to customers, unpaid wages and/or commissions, unpaid insurance claims and lost/abandoned bank accounts or investment accounts.

Unclaimed property compliance is not an option; it is a requirement. The risks of non-compliance could result in fines and/or penalties being imposed. Additionally, a company could be subjected to an exhaustive escheat audit where the disruptions to time, resources and greater amounts of monies owed are at risk.

Organizations should conduct regular reviews to ensure their compliance. The following, while not exhaustive, contains the most important tasks for you to perform and consider establishing policy and procedures to create an efficient unclaimed property program.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Reporting, Recordkeeping, Best Practices