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Understanding Louisiana’s unclaimed property laws

Louisiana residents should familiarize themselves with the state’s unclaimed property laws, which can have different parameters depending on the property type.

Unclaimed property may include any funds or otherwise intangible personal possessions that are held or owing in the “ordinary course of a holder’s business that have remained unclaimed by the owner for a certain number of years,” according to the State Treasurer’s office. Depending on the type of property, holders are required to remit the holdings to the state after a certain duration of time, assuming the property has not been claimed. At that point, the state will then retain possession of the property indefinitely, or until a claim is filed by the owner or one of his or her heirs.

So what constitutes unclaimed property? Potentially, a wide range of items, including but not limited to:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Uncashed payroll checks
  • Customer deposits
  • Overpayments
  • Utility deposits
  • Paid-up life insurance policies
  • Uncashed death benefit checks

Depending on the sort of property in question, holding periods may vary. For example, the holding period for payroll checks and utility deposits is just one year, but for travelers checks it is 15 years. Most items, including royalty payments, dividends and cashier’s checks, require a holding period of between two and five years.

Louisiana is not the only state to have enacted unclaimed property laws, and in fact the mandate was designed to promote uniformity across the country while protecting the property of citizens and their rightful heirs. The state, in such cases, serves as a central depository from which owners may retrieve their unclaimed property, rather than contacting companies or other citizens in a blind search. The rightful owners, in theory, need only search one source to locate such property and are assured of its safety for an indefinite period of time. Additionally, all state residents stand to benefit from unclaimed funds, which may be used for public purposes in the interim.

Since enacted in 1972, more than $250 million has been remitted to the state of Louisiana, with more than $65 million of that total ultimately refunded to the rightful owners. An important distinction for residents to grasp is that the law pertains strictly to funds and other intangible personal items. Therefore, items such as jewelry, guns, real estate or any immovable real property are not included under the letter of the law and will not be accepted by Department of the Treasury.

Locating owners
Holders of unclaimed property – often companies – are required by law to report it to the state, and are then instructed to attempt to make contact with the owners either through a letter or by phone. If unsuccessful in their attempts to locate the owner, the holder may then report the names and last-known addresses of the owners to the state’s unclaimed property division. At that point, the names of any residents for whom more than $50 worth of unclaimed property has been reported are sent to businesses and newspapers throughout the parish in which the last-known address for that person is located.

If still unclaimed over the specified window of time that has been outlined for each type of property, the items are then remitted to the state. However, even after the state takes custody, additional efforts are made to locate the owners, who may reclaim their property at any point, with no time limit, provided they present sufficient proof of identification and ownership.

For more information on unclaimed property laws, Louisiana residents can contact a LaPorte accounting services professional.