Monday, October 10, 2011

Money Unclaimed

Right upfront, I'll acknowledge that this is a little "inside baseball," but it could be a big deal for some readers, and I think it points out how important accurate record-keeping can be.

Many (most?) folks know that when a bank account goes dormant for a long time, the balance is transferred to the state for safe-keeping until such time as the owner or his/her designee steps forward to claim it. When a person dies, if a claim isn't made, then those proceeds are also left "dormant." The challenge is that, up 'til now, there's been no consistent, central database of these unclaimed funds.

From the insurance company's perspective, it's both a blessing and a curse: a blessing, because it's essentially "free money" earning interest. A curse because it's an accounting boondoggle (imagine if you had 200 or more outstanding checks on your personal account, still sitting out there year after year).

The problem has no reached large enough proportions that state governments - and insurance companies - are beginning to seriously address it:

"...the decision confirms a National Underwriter article Sept. 5 indicating that state probes into life insurer unclaimed property practices are escalating.

Specifically, a securities analyst said today in an investment note that MetLife is under investigation by 30 states for its unclaimed property practices."

I have decidedly mixed feeling about this development: on the one hand, if Met (or any other carrier, for that matter) is somehow abusing the funds it has yet to disburse, then that's a problem. But I also think that this speaks to a lack of seriousness on the part of insureds who haven't taken the (nominal) time to make sure that there's an accurate inventory of their policies.

It's called personal responsibility.
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