Take the 2-minute tour ×
Personal Finance & Money Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who want to be financially literate. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I received a letter from 'Legal Claimant Services', a division of Keane claiming that my recently-deceased father has some assets in a Georgia bank. Of course, for a fee, they would help me recover the assets. Immediately, I performed an unclaimed property search in Georgia; the search yielded no results. Since I didn't see any unclaimed property in Georgia, I disregarded the letter.

My brother received the same letter and decided to look into it. He told me that both his attorney and accountant both think its legitimate. He then contacted Legal Claimant Services and found out that my father does in fact have some money in a Georgia account and they would help us recover it. For a whopping thirty percent!

He wants to go forward with their offer because it's 'found money'.

From what I understand, a third-party is never necessary to collect unclaimed property.

How legitimate is this? I assumed companies like 'Legal Claimant Services' simply screen-scrape the state-run unclaimed property sites and then mass-mail people, trying to capitalize off off people who don't realize that legitimate unclaimed property can be claimed at no cost.

Since this doesn't seem to be the case, how does this company know that I potentially have unclaimed assets to claim? Are there other(read: less expensive) means of retrieving these assets?

Update: I called the Georgia Department of Revenue to ask the same; they had no record that match either my Father's name nor his SSN.

Update2: My father did live in Georgia for a few years.

Update3: I called Legal Claimant Services and they sounded every bit as shady as I imagined. They said the money is in a 'stock account' and it's not registered with any State. I suppose I could find out what companies my father dealt with. Not sure how I would go about this but I'm willing to do some legwork in order to save 30%.

share|improve this question
6  
Are they asking for money up front? That is, "We know of this bank account worth $5000 with your father's name on it. Send us $1500 (our 30% fee) and we will have the bank send you the $5000." Or is it a case of "We will recover the money and send you $3500, being the $5000 less our 30% recovery fee"? –  Dilip Sarwate May 23 '12 at 13:17
1  
Is it possible that the account was in the joint name of your parents with your mother's SSN on it (and she predeceased your father, whether in Georgia or elsewhere, and he never got around to changing the SSN on the account?) Ditto for any other spouses that your father might have had in Georgia days. –  Dilip Sarwate May 23 '12 at 13:20
1  
In UK its a routine practise with Govt putting up details of unclaimed funds on website. There are quite a few companies who then go out and search for all the legal hiers and also arrive at how much each decendants would get. They would then make you sign around 25% to 30% as their fees and get you the money. At times its simple where there are direct decendants. At times its complicated they have to find Aunts / uncles and their legal hiers etc. There was also a populat TV show in UK on this as to what all these companies do [nothing short of detective services] to find legal hiers. –  Dheer May 23 '12 at 14:10
2  
Did you also check on these sites unclaimed.org/what and missingmoney.com –  Dheer May 23 '12 at 14:22
1  
@DilipSarwate they wanted my brother and I to authorize their retrieval of the money and they'd give us 70% of what they claim. shady. I question how they found out about the unclaimed money since it doesn't yet appear to be public record. –  Neil Kodner May 23 '12 at 15:02
show 5 more comments

6 Answers

Most states have a "cap" on the amount a "heir finder" can charge for retrieving the property. It is generally around 10%. Even if the state does not have a particular statute you can usually negotiate the rate with the company. Thirty-percent is extortion, if they won't do it for less, someone else will.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's true that most states have limits on what finders can charge if the listing is in state possession. If it is in the pre-escheat phase (that period of time before it goes to the state) then even if the money will eventually go to the state, the limits don't apply. Keane does a lot of work with transfer agents that handle the administrative work of stocks.

  • If your dad had stocks and you know the name of the company, you can go to that site and click on investor relations to find out the name of the transfer agent. Chances are this money will eventually end up in the state unclaimed property site if you just wait it out.

Other options that have a time limit include

  • checking with the clerk of the court if there was any court cases that he had money coming from such as a foreclosure sale or tax sale. (Anything above what you owed is yours. Most people don't know this.)
  • Check with the building department to see if there are any impact fees due to be refunded.
  • If you have your dad's Social Security number you can check with the IRS for tax refunds that may not have reached him or with the Treasury Department for savings bonds.
  • There's money from forgotten pensions, 401Ks, the FDIC, HUD and so much more. You can go to unclaimed.org. (NOTE! This is .org NOT .com that will charge you.) At the top is a link for more places to search.

I have a friend that was contacted by Keane. It turned out to be stock that her mother had when she worked for AMEX. She got busy with other things and got another letter from Keane. The stock increased in value and they wanted more money to help her even though they had already done the work of finding her. The money eventually went to the state and she was able to claim the full amount for FREE.

If the suggestions I gave you don't get results, contact me through my web site and I'll try to help. Good luck!

share|improve this answer
add comment

@ Chris: Companies like Keane, ours, and others know where to look for these funds and where to ask at the correct agencies that are holding this money that is not part of the public links that you have access to.

This is how we find this information. Our types of companies spend significant time, money and resources in finding out about the money, then finding who it actually belongs to (because it does not always belong to who is mentioned on the list) and then finding the correct individual.

@ jdsweet: I apologize if you think this is a marketing ploy. It is not. Our company doesn't even take phone calls from people that want us to find them money. Only if we contact someone, because at that time we're confident that the person we touch base with is due the funds.

Again, I am not plugging our company, but trying to let Neil know that in some cases he is right, you don't need a third party to claim funds for you - if you can find them. In this case, he has looked and cannot find them. Keane is charging a fair amount to retrieve funds he cannot find and doesn't know about and is not charging him anything to do all the work.

Again, as mentioned above, the direct answer is that we know how to access information and lists that have this money hidden from the public because the agency holding the funds doesn't want you to know about it so that they can escheat the funds. Escheating is the state's legal way to confiscate your money.

See, if you don't put in a claim for the money (depending on what type it is and where it is located) the agency and state holding the funds has certain time frames for you to get the money. If you don't, again, they get to keep it and that is what they want despite what they say. That is why there is approximately $33 Billion that is known to the public and really $1 Trillion that's out there.

I apologize if you think that this is a plug for my company, it's not because we're not looking for calls, we make them. I'm also not asking Neil for his business. From all accounts on my side, this seems like a fair deal.

share|improve this answer
1  
Nice answer. Great to see your expertise improve the discourse. –  Alex B May 30 '12 at 18:07
    
Great, great, great answer! And I don't mind the marketing (ploy or not) as long as your expertise improves the conversation - which it has! ;-) –  Jon S May 31 '12 at 21:16
add comment

So while these companies are not a scam, 30% feels pretty darn high. How about you negotiate a much lower rate? 10% or 15%?

Here is why:

You will spend time and effort (which technically isn't free) to find the money. I bet you can find it if you look hard enough. But you could also just collect it and give this company a cut for their expertise.

However if 30% bugs you (and it would bug me) then consider their reality. They spent money to find the funds and contact you. HOWEVER, that is a sunk cost. It is already spent. You can find it on your own and they get zip. Or you negotiate a lower percentage, they get enough to cover their costs and make some profit and you save a ton of time.

Since they took the time to explain themselves here, they are either scammers trying to bully you into compliance, or they are legit. It is field that people might look down on, but it isn't criminal.

I would look for the money if it were me, but I feel I have enough free time that it would be worth it.

share|improve this answer
    
Here is an article with some tips to find the money: getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/07/26/… –  MrChrister May 26 '12 at 19:22
add comment

You can't blame companies like 'Legal Claimant Services' for making a profit by providing this service. That is capitalism and it is the way of the world. It is just like any other business you can do yourself - from making dinner to cutting your own grass. If you choose to do it yourself, you save money but you also do the work. When I got my letter telling me about a claim, I automatically went online to do some research. That's how I found this site and information that led me to validate the claim. I then chose to follow a few simple instructions and keep all of the claim instead of giving away 30%.

share|improve this answer
add comment

for full disclosure I'm an Independent Contractor and work with Jeff Richman.

@ Neil:

Question 1: How legitimate is this?

If you were never contacted by the company you would never know about the money. Period, end of story. Not trying to be rude but that is the bottom line truth. Look up asset recovery businesses. They are in every city almost. They work for individuals, governments and businesses. Very legitimate business.

Question 2: Since this doesn't seem to be the case, how does this company know that I potentially have unclaimed assets to claim?

I understand your concern and the best analogy I can think of to explain this is:

A company's copier breaks down. A copy machine repair man is called. He shows up and opens the copier and studies it intensely and closes it back up. He takes a hammer out of his bag and hits the copier on the side in two different places, twice. The copier starts working. He charges the company owner a $1000.00. The company owner is glad to pay it because without the knowledge of the repair man, his business is not making money.

This is the same: The professionals at Keane have specific knowledge about how to, where to and who to ask for these lists. Granted, it's not your business we're talking about here but without them, you get nothing.

2 professionals have advised you to move forward; your brother's accountant and lawyer.

Take the money. It costs you nothing. If they want money from you up front or want you to pay for stuff, run.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by John Bensin Jul 25 '13 at 17:25

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.