Category: history

Unclaimed Property News Roundup:

Illinois Launches “Operation Reunite” For Veterans — According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has commenced a new initiative to return medals and other military items to veterans.  According to the article, the Illinois Treasurer has over 200 military items, including 15 Purple Hearts, a Navy Cross, and other awards and artifacts.  For more information on Operation Reunite, check out the Treasurer’s website.

Wisconsin Collects $20 Million —  According to the blog of the Wisconsin State Treasury, the Badger State raked in more than $20 million during the past reporting period.  Interestingly, the Treasury also produced this video to assist holders with the reporting process.

New Yorker Missing $1.7 MillionNina Pineda of Channel 7 “Eyewitness News” in New York City recently published an article (with video) about unclaimed property held by the New York State Office of Unclaimed Funds.  According to the article, the OUF is holding more than $1.7 million for one lucky New Yorker.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last known address of that individual (who is not being disclosed) was in Manhattan.

Maine & ACS Present:  A History of Unclaimed Property Law — About a month ago, the Maine State Treasury & ACS Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse hosted an Unclaimed Property Holder Seminar.  The slides that accompanied that presentation give a good concise history of the development of unclaimed property laws.  If you are interested in the history of unclaimed property law (and, really, who isn’t?) you should check it out.

An Unclaimed Property Lesson From (Old) Jersey

As you may know, the name of the great State of New Jersey (where Escheatable is based) comes from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel.  The Isle is not part of the United Kingdom, but is rather a crown dependency.  In any event, Her Majesty’s Receiver General of the Isle of Jersey maintains a website that includes, among other things, a concise summary describing the historical development of, and differences between, escheat and bona vacantia.  As we’ve noted earlier, although the term escheat is now generally used in the context of referring to modern state unclaimed property laws, this is really a misnomer.   As Her Majesty’s Receiver General points out, escheat is a term that generally applies to real estate (i.e., land) while the separate doctrine of bona vacantia applies to “moveable” goods (i.e., things).

One stark contrast between escheat (actually, bona vacantia) in Jersey and the United States is that such laws in the U.K. and its crown dependencies actually give the Crown title (i.e., ownership) not just custody of the property.  Here, of course, U.S. states generally do not get to take ownership of unclaimed property – it is merely held in trust for the benefit of the rightful owner.

Ancient Origins of Unclaimed Property Law Still in Effect — Scotland’s Treasure Trove

As you may know, modern day unclaimed property laws are a descendant of an ancient common law legal doctrine known as bona vacantia (“vacant goods,” in latin).  Under this doctrine, items of personal property with no known owner were deemed to be the property of the sovereign.  (The term escheat, though often used in the context of unclaimed personal property, is actually a misnomer; the common law doctrine of escheat actually referred to ownerless “real” property (i.e., land) not personal property).  While today’s unclaimed property (US) and bona vacantia (UK) laws are primarily addressed towards unclaimed intangible property (e.g., money, deposits, checks, wills, etc.) it is worth noting that the original concepts of bona vacantia and treasure trove are alive and well in the UK.

For example, the BBC News reported yesterday on Scotland’s 330 “treasure trove” cases over the past year – situations where archaeologists and/or ordinary citizens found medieval rings, ancient weapons, and other artifacts.  As the article explains, “[u]nder Scottish law, the Crown has the right to all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned. Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to the treasure trove unit.”  Such items are reported and turned over to the Queen and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer.

Included in last year’s findings was an axe head believed to be between 4 and 6 thousand years old.  There was no word on whether 4,000 years of penalties and interest would be assessed for late reporting.

How We Got Here – In 30 Lines or Less

This past weekend the Abilene Reporter-News published an article providing an overview of Texas unclaimed property law, and encouraging readers to check with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to see if they are owed some of the $2.2 billion of unclaimed property being held by the state.

Far more interesting to Escheatable, however, was the accompanying timeline of the history of unclaimed property laws.  In just 27 lines, you can learn how the escheat laws developed from the time of Ancient Rome to today (with stopovers in England, the U.S. Supreme Court, and Texas).  It is worth reading.