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California Escheat & Unclaimed Property Laws

Looking for information on unclaimed property & escheat law in California? This post will point you in the right direction with some general facts & knowledge about California unclaimed property laws and regulations. If at the end, you still have questions or would like guidance pertaining to your specific situation, contact an unclaimed property expert at (800) 848-8896 or by filling out this contact form on our website.

Other California Unclaimed Property blogs include:

California Updates Process for Reporting and Remitting Securities

California Passes New Retained Asset Accounts Legislation

California Unclaimed Property Penalties & Notices Catching Many Companies Off-Guard

California Escheatment At A Glance

With an eye-opening 6.1 billion dollars in unclaimed property belonging to approximately 17.6 million individuals and organizations, the State of California has in its possession a substantial chunk of tangible and/or intangible property that you’ve likely turned over year after year. John Chiang, the Controller for the State of California, is the state’s fiscal officer responsible for, among other tasks, overseeing that 6.1 billion—and trying to return the property to its legal owner or heir.

The following are some key terms that facilitate understanding of California escheatment law:

□ Escheatment: A process whereby unclaimed property is rendered to the state.

□ Apparent owner: The individual who is believed to be the owner of the property in question based on the holder’s records.

□ Holder: The entity either in possession of property that belongs to another individual or a trustee if the property is a trust.

What Is Covered Under California Escheatment Law?

There are more than 100 property types that could be reportable. Some common property types and their respective dormancy periods are shared in the table below. (Note: This information is provided for reference only. Keane updates the matrix and makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information reflected, however unclaimed property laws, regulations and administrative rules are dynamic and often change with short notice. Please consult Keane’s Compliance office or contact specific states to obtain the most current information before reporting unclaimed property.)

Property TypeDormancy Period
Cashier's Checks3 years
Demand Deposits (Checking)3 years
Dividends3 years
Employee Benefit Plan3 years
Escrow Accounts 3 years
Gift Certificates with Expiration3 years
Interest3 years
IRA's & Retirement Plans 3 years
Life Insurance Funds3 years
Liquidating Distributions6 months
Matured Time Deposits (CD's)3 years
Money Orders7 years
Ordered Refunds1 year
Safe-Deposit Boxes3 years
Savings3 years
Stocks and Bonds3 years
Traveler's Checks15 years
Wages or Salaries1 year
Written Instruments (checks)3 years
Other Tangible and Intangible Property3 years

The Process of Escheatment

After two and a half years of reasonable efforts made by the holder to contact the rightful owner, the holder is required to send a written notification to the apparent owner’s address, indicating that abandoned or unclaimed property will be turned over to the state. California unclaimed property reporting procedures are unique. Click here for more details.

Examination of Records

At any given reasonable time, the State of California may authorize a licensing or regulating agency or auditors to inspect the records of a holder believed to have neglected to report escheatable property. In addition, the State may enter into an agreement with another state to investigate claims that escheatable property was not reported in that state.

California Unclaimed Property Audits

The State Controller’s Office has the authority to perform holder audits if there is reason to believe the holder failed to report property that should have been reported pursuant to California escheat laws. The State Controller’s Office currently has positions allocated for auditing California based entities. Third-party auditors are contracted for audits outside of California.

Violation of California Escheatment Law

If a holder is found to have not reported unclaimed or abandoned property in accordance with California escheat reporting laws, a fine of $100 per day is assessed to the violating holder for each day such report is not delivered to the State, up to a maximum of $10,000. In addition, if a holder pays or delivers unclaimed property in a timely manner, but files a report that is not in substantial compliance with the requirements of section 1530, the interest payable shall not exceed $10,000. A fine is assessed only after a reasonable amount of time has passed since the delivery of notice from the Controller’s office to the holder notifying them that a report is required. Intentionally neglecting or refusing to deliver escheated property to the State results in a minimum fine of $5,000, up to a maximum of $50,000.

Holders who file after the California escheat reporting deadline for the Holder Notice Report or Holder Remit Report and have not obtained an extension will be assessed appropriate interest charges. Interest is assessed at 12% per year on the property from the date the property should have been reported, paid, or delivered

Contact Info for California Division of Collections

California Division of Collections

Bureau of Unclaimed Property

PO Box 942850

Sacramento, CA 94250-5872

(916) 445-2636 Office

(916)322-4404 FAX

Other California Unclaimed Property Law Resources

California State Comptroller Unclaimed Property Main Page

California Unclaimed Property Status

Let Us Help You Stay Compliant With California Escheat & Unclaimed Property Laws

We hope that you found this information helpful, but likely, you need some more specific guidance. Don’t take chances. Improperly reporting & managing unclaimed property can result in costly fines and penalties.

Contact an unclaimed property specialist at Keane Unclaimed Property and turn your company’s escheat program from an expense into an opportunity. Just pick up the phone and call (800) 848-8896.

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