Regulation is the Beginning, Not the End
We spend a tremendous amount of time on this blog talking about unclaimed property regulation — the state and federal laws, agency rules, and office practices that make up the nuts and bolts of the unclaimed property reporting and remittance process. This, of course, is understandable. Most of this blog’s (dozen or so) readers are involved in unclaimed property from the holder’s side (or are my Mom). Lest we forget, however, the whole point of unclaimed property legislation is (presumably) to get abandoned, unclaimed, or missing funds in the hands of the person to whom that money or property belongs. The laws and rules regulating the holder community are important of course, but they are merely one step in reuniting owners with their funds. That reporting and delivery process is, to quote Churchill, “not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
In other words, whether it is done by old fashioned newspaper advertisement, state sponsored online listings, unclaimed property kiosks, or other outreach programs, once the unclaimed funds get to the government, the job is not finished; in fact, it may be that the real work is just starting. Moreover, most governments do not proactively reach out to apparent owners (because of privacy concerns, staffing limitations, or just disinterest). Accordingly, an important step in getting money to owners is educating the owners of their ability to look for the funds. For example, late last year Kenya passed its first unclaimed property law. That was not, however, the end of the matter. According to an article in the Kenyan newspaper The Star, some don’t anticipate that the law will have a significant impact on reconciling abandoned funds, either because the government will not contact the owners, or because the owners do not have or keep the records necessary to substantiate claims or inform their heirs about the existence of the funds.
These problems don’t have easy solutions, but they are no less important than tweaking the rules governing the holder community.