Unclaimed Property Rules and Time Limits for Massachusetts

Filed under Basic Accounting. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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Learn the unclaimed property rules and their time limits for the state of Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, all things relating to unclaimed property are handled by the Abandoned Property Division of the Office of State Treasurer.

  • As a business owner, this will be the agency to contact if you possess unclaimed property (unpaid wages, for example). Remember that you are subject to both reporting requirements and the obligation to turn over abandoned property to the state.
  • It is also the point of contact if you believe that you may have knowingly, or unknowingly, abandoned property (for example, failing to get back a security deposit, didn't receive a tax refund).

Massachusetts businesses have a number of responsibilities concerning unclaimed property. Initially, written notice must be sent to the apparent owner of the unclaimed property, if known. If the property remains unclaimed, businesses have a number of filing and reporting requirements to fulfill. Most importantly, businesses are required to turn over any and all unclaimed property to the state. Stiff penalties apply to businesses who fail to comply with any of these requirements.

Individuals should know that Massachusetts property is generally presumed abandoned after one to 15 years of inactivity by the owner of the property. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved. Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state.

Reporting Unclaimed Property in Massachusetts

A holder of abandoned property reports the property to the Massachusetts Office of the State Treasurer by November 1 of each year as of the prior June 30 or the end of the prior fiscal year. Life insurance companies and persons holding unclaimed property from the demutualization or other reorganization of a life insurance company must file the report before May 1 of the year as of the prior December 31.

The Treasurer may extend the date of filing a report and turning over property for up to two months at the written request of the holder if the Treasurer deems that the extension is warranted. When an extension is granted, the notice requirement periods are similarly extended.

The report must include the following information:

  • the name and last known address of the owner of record of abandoned property valued at $100 or more (not required for checks, traveler's checks, and other similar written instruments);
  • the full name of an insured or annuitant and the last known address according to life insurance company records;
  • the nature and identifying number or other description of any intangible property and the amount due; items valued at less than $100 may be reported in the aggregate;
  • except for property reported in the aggregate, the date when the property became payable, demandable, or returnable and the date of the last transaction with the owner with respect to the property;
  • all prior names of the holder and the names of all prior holders of the property; and
  • other information prescribed by the Treasurer.

Prior notice to owner. The holder of abandoned property must send a notice by first class mail to the owner of the property at least 60 days before filing the annual report, so that the owner may rebut the presumption of abandonment.

Delivery. a holder of abandoned property that has filed a report must pay or deliver the property to the Treasurer by November 1, or in the case of life insurance companies and persons holding unclaimed property from the demutualization or other reorganization of a life insurance company, May 1.

Recordkeeping. A business must generally keep records for five years of checks, money orders, traveler's checks and other similar written instruments sold in the commonwealth. Holders of other property keep records for five years of the name and last known address of the owner.

Penalties. If a court has to order a person to provide records to the Treasurer, the court may include a daily rate of $150 per examiner as the cost of conducting the examination of records. Any person who fails to timely report abandoned property may be fined up to $500, unless the person acted in good faith.

A person who fails to timely deliver unclaimed property to the Treasurer pays interest at the rate of 12 percent per year (or the rate otherwise established) on the property from the date the property should have been paid or delivered.

Claiming Unclaimed Property in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, property is generally presumed abandoned after one to 15 years of inactivity by the owner of the property. However, this time limit varies depending on the type of property involved. Once abandoned property is turned over to the state by a business, an individual then has the burden of reclaiming it from the state.

Locating abandoned property held by the state. The Office of the State Treasurer publishes notice of abandoned property, other than written instruments valued at $100 or more, by March 1, or September 1 for life insurance company reports, at least once a week for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation containing the names of the owner, insured, or annuitant, the name and address of the holder, and a description of the property. The Treasurer also mails notice to the owners of abandoned property whose addresses are known.

Unclaimed property held by the state may also be found by searching the state's website.

To find out if other states may be holding your unclaimed property, search the national database established by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

Filing a claim. A person may establish a claim to property surrendered to the Treasurer at any time. If the property has not been liquidated, liquidation proceedings are delayed until the rights to the property are determined.

A claim is initiated by searching the state's website. If a search turns up a claimant's name, follow the links to initiate an online claim.

The Treasurer sends written notice of the determination of a claim to the claimant. Within 20 days, the claimant may apply for a hearing and redetermination of the claim. The Treasurer will make a decision within 30 days after the hearing.

Within 20 days of receiving notice from the Treasurer a claimant adversely affected by the decision may appeal to the district, municipal, or superior court. Within 20 days of the court decree, a claimant adversely affected by the court's decision may appeal to the supreme judicial court.

Massachusetts Unclaimed Property Resources

If you're looking for additional information on unclaimed property, we recommend contacting your state's governmental agency that oversees the administration of this area of the law. For help in answering a specific unclaimed property question in Massachusetts, contact the following:

Massachusetts Abandoned Property Division
One Ashburton Place, 12th Floor
Boston, Ma 02108-1608
Phone: (617) 367-0400, 1-888-344-MASS (toll-free Massachusetts only)
Fax: (617) 248-3944
Website: http://abpweb.tre.state.ma.us/abp/abp.htm

Massachusetts Abandoned Property Time Limits

Property Type Presumed Abandoned After
Bank account deposits: three years
Checks or drafts three years
Demutualization proceeds three years
Gift certificates, gift cards, and credit memos Gift certificates and gift cards are exempt from unclaimed property reporting requirements.
Insurance policies Life or annuity policies: three years
IRAs or retirement funds employee benefit trust distributions: three years
Money orders seven years
Other intangible personal property not otherwise specified three years
Includes security deposits
Proceeds from class action suits no specific provision
Property distributable by a business association in the course of dissolution one year
Property held by courts or public agencies three years
Property held by fiduciaries three years
Safe deposit boxes no specific provision
Shares in a financial institution no specific provision
Stocks, dividends, and distributions three years
Traveler's checks 15 years
Deposits and advances owed utility company customer no specific provision
Wages or salaries no specific provision

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