Abandoned Property Search
Searching for Abandoned Property in Texas: A Helpful Guide
Have you ever wondered what happens to property when it appears the owner has abandoned it? In Texas, there are specific laws that govern abandoned property and provide a process for reuniting it with its rightful owner. This article will walk through everything you need to know about searching for abandoned property in Texas.
What is Considered Abandoned Property in Texas?
Texas law describes certain types of personal property that are “presumed abandoned” if left unclaimed for one year or more. This includes financial assets like uncashed checks, unpaid wages, stocks, utility deposits, insurance proceeds, and more. It can also include the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes.
Real property like land or buildings can also be considered abandoned through a legal process called adverse possession (sometimes called “squatter’s rights”). This involves someone occupying the property for a certain period of time without the true owner objecting. Requirements vary, so consult an attorney if you believe you have a claim to abandoned real estate.
The Unclaimed Property Program in Texas
In Texas, the Comptroller’s Office administers a statewide unclaimed property program. Holders (businesses or government entities) are required to report unclaimed financial assets to the state after a dormancy period.
Then, the unclaimed property division attempts to locate the rightful owners. Texans can search the state’s unclaimed property database for free at ClaimItTexas.gov to see if any belongs to them.
Common types of unclaimed property reported in Texas include:
- Uncashed payroll, dividend, or expense reimbursement checks
- Deposits for utilities, rent, etc.
- Unused gift certificates/store credits
- Unclaimed insurance payouts
- Forgotten bank accounts or investments
- Royalty payments
- Court case restitutions
Businesses are required to perform due diligence like checking records and sending notices before reporting unclaimed assets to the state. After it’s reported, the property is held indefinitely until claimed.
Searching for Unclaimed Assets in Your Name
Searching the state’s unclaimed property records is fast and easy! Just visit ClaimItTexas.gov and enter your name in the search bar. You can also search for relatives or friends.
If your search turns up unclaimed property, you’ll need to file a claim by providing information to verify your identity. This usually includes a copy of your photo ID.
The Comptroller’s office says minor typos like a misspelled name shouldn’t prevent your unclaimed assets from being found. But it’s best to try different name variations just in case.
Beware of Unclaimed Property Scams
Unfortunately, scammers try to take advantage of people searching for unclaimed assets. Some tricks to watch out for:
- Charging fees – Never pay upfront fees to a company claiming it will search for your unclaimed property. You can do this yourself for free.
- Fake checks – Shady companies may send a fake check made out for the amount of unclaimed property they say you’re owed. But they’ll ask for a “processing fee” first before you can cash it.
- Unsolicited contacts – Be wary of calls, letters, or emails telling you that you have unclaimed assets waiting if you’ve never searched your name. This is likely a scam.
- Requesting personal info – Don’t give out your Social Security number, bank account details, or other sensitive info. The official unclaimed property program does not need this to verify your identity.
Only use the Comptroller’s official website or call their unclaimed property division directly if you have questions. Don’t trust third parties offering to reunite you with lost assets for a fee.
Claiming Property After a Loved One Passes Away
If you need to claim property belonging to a deceased relative, the rules vary depending on your relationship to the person:
- Surviving spouse – If you are the surviving spouse, you can claim the property by providing a copy of the death certificate and your photo ID.
- Other relatives – If you are an heir entitled to property under the will, you’ll also need to provide documentation like affidavit of heirship or small estate affidavit.
- Executor – If you are the executor of the estate, submit a copy of your letters testamentary.
- No will – Without a will, the estate must go through probate and property is claimed by the appointed administrator.
Consult a probate attorney to ensure you follow the proper procedures. The Comptroller’s office also has a guide to claiming property of deceased relatives that outlines the specifics.
Are There Time Limits to Claim Property?
Nope! Unclaimed property is held by the state indefinitely. There is no time limit or statute of limitations on returning abandoned assets to their rightful owners.
The Comptroller’s office says the oldest claim they’ve paid out was over 70 years after the property was reported! So it’s never too late to search for forgotten funds and assets owed to you or loved ones.
Using “Claim It Texas” to Report Abandoned Assets
Texas businesses are required to report unclaimed property to the state after a specified dormancy period. This is usually 1-5 years depending on the type of asset.
Companies can conveniently report abandoned assets using the Claim It Texas website. This helps ensure the state has up-to-date records that owners can search.
Organizations must perform due diligence like sending notices before reporting unclaimed property. Detailed rules are outlined in Texas Property Code Chapter 72.
When to Consult an Attorney About Abandoned Property
While searching for unclaimed assets is straightforward, determining whether property is legally abandoned can be tricky. Consider talking to an attorney if:
- Ownership of the property is unclear or disputed
- The property involves complex assets like mineral rights, stocks, etc.
- You want to make an adverse possession claim
- You believe abandoned property is being mismanaged
An experienced lawyer can review the specifics and make sure your rights are protected. They can also represent you if a legal battle arises over contested property.
Unclaimed Property Can Be Life-Changing
While the average unclaimed property payout is $1,500, some people have been reunited with hundreds of thousands – even millions! So don’t assume it’s not worth your time to search. Even smaller amounts add up.
Finding forgotten funds or assets can be life-changing, especially for lower income households. You never know what might be waiting for you or your family!
With ClaimItTexas.gov, checking for unclaimed property is quick and easy. Don’t let scammers or confusing legal procedures deter you from getting back what rightfully belongs to you.