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Unclaimed Property Rules and Time Limits for Montana

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 Montana.

In Montana, all things relating to unclaimed property are handled by the Unclaimed Property Division of the Montana Department of Revenue.

  • 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).

Montana 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 Montana property is generally presumed abandoned after one to 15 years of inactivity by the owner. 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 Montana

In Montana, a holder of property that is presumed abandoned must file a report with the Department of Revenue before November 1 of each year that covers the 12 months next preceding July 1 of that year. Life insurance companies must report before May 1 of each year for the calendar year next preceding. The Department may extend the time to file the report upon request and for good cause.

The report must be verified and include the following information:

  • a description of the property;
  • except with respect to a traveler's check or money order, the name, if known, and last-known address, if any, and the social security number or taxpayer identification number, if readily ascertainable, of the apparent owner of property with a value of $50 or more;
  • an aggregated amount of items valued under $50 each;
  • in the case of an amount of $50 or more held or owing under an annuity or a life or endowment insurance policy, the full name and last-known address of the annuitant or insured and of the beneficiary;
  • in the case of property held in a safe deposit box or other safekeeping depository, an indication of the place where it is held and where it may be inspected by the administrator and any amounts owing to the holder;
  • the date, if any, on which the property became payable, demandable, or returnable and the date of the last transaction with the apparent owner with respect to the property; and
  • any other necessary information requested by the Department of Revenue

Prior notice to owner. Between 60 and 120 days before filing the report, a holder must send written notice that the property is unclaimed to apparent owners of property if:

  • the holder has an address for the apparent owner that the holder's records do not disclose to be inaccurate;
  • the claim of the apparent owner is not barred by a statute of limitations; and
  • the value of the property is $50 or more

Delivery. Along with the report, the holder must deliver the unclaimed property to the Department. Property held in a safe deposit box may not be delivered to the Department until 60 days after filing the report. The holder, upon written consent of the Department, may deliver property before it is presumed abandoned.

The Department may decline to receive property that it considers to have a value less than the expenses of notice and sale.

Recordkeeping. A business must generally maintain related records 10 years after the unclaimed property is reported. However, the period is three years for traveler's checks, money orders, and similar financial instruments.

Penalties. a holder that fails to report, pay, or deliver property to the Department within the time required must pay interest at the annual rate of 12 percent and is liable for a penalty. The penalty is $100 per day up to a maximum of $2,500. However, if the failure is willful or the report is fraudulent, the penalty is $1,000 per day up to a maximum of $25,000 plus 25 percent of the value of any property that should have been reported.

Claiming Unclaimed Property in Montana

In Montana, property is generally presumed abandoned after one to 15 years of inactivity by the owner. 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 Montana Department of Revenue must publish notice of abandoned property (except information concerning traveler's checks, money orders, or similar instruments) valued at $50 or more by November 30 of the year following the year in which the abandoned property has been paid or delivered to the Department in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in Montana in which the last-known address of any person named in the notice is located.

Unclaimed property held by the state may also be found by calling the Department's customer service line ((406) 444-6900) and having a representative conduct a search of unclaimed property for you.

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. Any person (except another state) claiming an interest in property paid or delivered to the Department may file a claim for its return. To get started, you must either ask: the Department to conduct an unclaimed property search for you or conduct the search online yourself (as described above). The Department will contact you with more instructions if the :search turns something up.

Once a claim is filed, the Department must give a written decision within 90 days. A person dissatisfied with the decision or whose claim has not been acted upon within 90 days after its filing may bring an action in district court to establish the claim.

Montana 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 Montana, contact the following:

Montana Department of Revenue
Unclaimed Property Division
P.O. Box 5805
Helena, MT 59604-5805
Phone: (406) 444-6900
Fax: (406) 444-0722

Montana Abandoned Property Time Limits

Each state has rules that specify the amount of time that must elapse before unclaimed property is considered to be abandoned. The amount of time varies with the type of property. The chart below specifies the time period for various classes of property.

Property Type Presumed Abandoned After
Bank account five years
Checks or drafts no specific provision
Demutualization proceeds no specific provision
Gift certificates, gift cards, and credit memos Gift certificates: three years after December 31 of the year the certificate is sold
Customer credit: three years
Insurance policies Life or annuity policies: three years
IRAs or retirement funds IRAs and defined benefit plan funds: three years
Money orders seven years
Other intangible personal property not otherwise specified five years
Includes business association debts, cooperative shares, and patronage refunds
Proceeds from class action suits one year
Property distributable by a business association in the course of dissolution one year
Property held by courts or public agencies one year
Property held by fiduciaries no specific provision
Safe deposit boxes five years
Shares in a financial institution no specific provision
Stocks, dividends, and distributions five years
Traveler's checks 15 years
Deposits and advances owed utility company customer deposits and refunds: one year
Wages or salaries one year

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