What is Unclaimed Property?
Generally, unclaimed property is any financial asset that hasn't had owner activity for a period of one year or more and the holder of the asset is not able to contact the owner. This includes:
Stocks and mutual funds
Customer deposits or overpayments
Certificates of deposit
Matured life insurance policies
Uncashed death benefit checks
The unclaimed property law also requires that utility deposits, unclaimed wages and property resulting from a business closure, be reported as unclaimed property after one year of inactivity. The law does not include real estate.
How do I report and remit unclaimed property to the Department of Revenue?
All businesses and other organizations with unclaimed funds are required to file their Unclaimed Property Holder Report electronically. You can use Holder Reporting Software (HRS), UPExchange, or My Tax Account to prepare your holder report. Our "Options for Holder Reporting" page has links to the report options, as well as the "Publication 82, Unclaimed Property Holder Report Guide to help you prepare and submit your report.
How does property become unclaimed?
Property becomes unclaimed or abandoned when there isn't owner activity on the account for a period of one to five years (depending upon the type of property) and is reportable to the Department of Revenue (DOR) if the holder of the asset does not make contact with the owner as a result of due diligence. A holder may include a bank, savings institution, credit union, securities brokerage firm, mutual fund company, insurance company, business or utility company.
Why does Wisconsin have an unclaimed property law?
The law was enacted in 1970 to enable Wisconsin residents to search in one place for missing funds. After 1 to 5 years of inactivity Wisconsin businesses are mandated to turn over all unclaimed money, stock, and safe deposit box contents to the Department of Revenue. This process relieves businesses from the expense and liability associated with carrying unclaimed property on their financial records. Most importantly, the process benefits Wisconsin residents because the State makes an active effort to reunite all rightful owners with their unclaimed property.
Who administers the law?
The State of Wisconsin serves as custodian of the property on behalf of the owner. The Department of Revenue administers the program. They can assist you if you are a holder of unclaimed property.
Please visit their website for more information-
What happens to unclaimed property when the Department of Revenue cannot locate the rightful owner?
DOR serves as a custodian for abandoned funds and holds these funds indefinitely. There is no time limit for you to claim your money from DOR. If at any time you can prove ownership or legal rights to the unclaimed funds, we will approve payment to you or your heirs without charge. Exception: property held under secs. 852.01 or 863.37, Wis. Stats. has a statute of limitations of 10 years to claim the property.
DOR must sell the unclaimed property at public auction to the highest bidder usually within three years after receiving it. In the case of any security, DOR waits at least one year before selling the security. Securities listed on an established stock exchange are sold at prices prevailing at the time of sale on the exchange. Other securities may be sold over the counter at prices prevailing at the time of sale or by any other method DOR considers advisable.
How much and what kind of property is involved?
Each year, millions of dollars in bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds and un-cashed checks are turned over to the Department of Revenue because the owners cannot be located. Safe deposit box contents as well as intangible financial assets, such as stock certificates and bonds are reported to the State.
Why is the State of Wisconsin involved?The purpose of the law is to identify and protect financial assets which have remained dormant for a period of 2 years or more and to hold it in custody until the rightful owner comes forward to claim it. Remitting the assets to the state allows the owners or their heirs to have a single source to check for unclaimed property instead of trying to check with hundreds of banks, insurance companies, employers and utility companies.
What efforts are made by the Department of Revenue to find the rightful owners?
DOR has a number of methods to try and locate owners, including:
Maintaining an online searchable database of unclaimed property
Annually advertising unclaimed property and its owner in newspapers throughout the state
Matching the names of unclaimed property owners with public record information
Matching the names and social security numbers of unclaimed property owners with Wisconsin tax records.
How can I avoid having unclaimed property?
Here are ten ways to ensure that your property is not turned over to the State:
1. Make sure that you update addresses with insurance companies, investor relations and utility providers.
2. Promptly cash all refund, rebate and dividend checks.
3. Respond to stock shareholder service requests for action.
4. Resolve insurance claims in full.
5. Identify co-owners or beneficiaries of financial and investment accounts.
6. Automatic withdrawal for safe deposit box rental fees.
7. Purchase cashier's checks and money order at financial institutions where you have accounts.
8. Use store or vendor credits within 1 year.
9. Update financial/investment accounts following marriage, divorce, death of a spouse or name change.
10. Inventory type/location of financial assets and provide to trusted advisor/friend.