May 13, 2020
Escheatment has a history that goes back at least 1,000 years. The origins of the word (escheat means to fall-out) meant that the property would fall out of the possession of a family if unclaimed by an heir. Back then if this happened, the land would be forfeited to the King to prevent it from hanging in limbo. The King could then resell the property to ensure the field’s productive continuity.
In today’s world, escheatment occurs when companies owe a person money but cannot locate them. Financial institutions, utilities, governments and other businesses must file reports with the state for abandoned property. After a certain amount of time, these companies must turn over these assets to the state. The good news is that the state never takes ownership of the assets. The state Treasurer safekeeps them until a properly identified claimant steps forward. Pennsylvania does not charge fees on these assets or the reclamation thereof.
Being as bored as my friend that Friday evening, I began randomly entering names and found many individuals, organizations and even governmental units have assets that lay unclaimed. One of the more noteworthy hits I found was the Philadelphia Electric Company1. I mention this because Philadelphia Electric Company became PECO in 1994 and then Exelon in 2000. It boggles my mind that Philadelphia’s electricity provider can be considered difficult to find. When I add various versions of the name, the total number of hits reaches the hundreds. I will not even delve into the number of search returns that come from departments of the state government itself.
I do not want to imply that everyone has escheated assets, but in times like this, every little bit helps. Even if you find a couple of hundred dollars, perhaps it can fund the $300 Universal Charitable Deduction authorized in the CARES Act. I would imagine that your favorite not-for-profit would appreciate it. As a note to not-for-profits, you too may have unclaimed assets, so you should run a check to see if there is anything out there for you.
As promised, the links to PA, NJ and NY can be found below. A suggestion would be to search as widely as possible – maiden name, initials, etc. I am sure your unclaimed assets will be happier with you.
The web address for Pennsylvania can be found here. For those in New Jersey, here. And for our friends in New York, you can click here. We would love to hear from you if you found this helpful and reclaimed some long-lost assets. If you wanted to share your experience, please drop us a line. Stay safe, and we look forward to when we can all meet up again.
1 In full transparency, my father works at Exelon and has done so for over 50 years. If he gets a bonus for my sleuthing, I will certainly claim my share.
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