Massachusetts is the number one state in the nation for returning unclaimed property per capita. Last year, the treasury returned over 100 million to people who lost track of their money, but it hasn’t been an easy process for one of our NBC10 Boston viewers.
Suzanne Donovan is frustrated. She’s spent months trying to claim money in her late father’s name from the Find Mass Money site – the unclaimed property division of the Treasurer’s office.
“If it wasn’t a lot of money I would have said forget it,” said Donovan. “I have a sister in Maine, whose husband is ill. This would be helpful to them. My brother and I would certainly pass it on and I think that’s what my father would have wanted.”
Donovan found nine claims in her father’s name on the site. She finished the paperwork last July, sending it in with all the required documentation. Months later she hit a roadblock.
“I got another email from another man who asked for a copy of my driver’s license, a copy of my social security card, and a copy of the death certificate,” said Donovan.
These are all items Donovan says she already sent, so she reached out to NBC10 Boston Responds for help.
“It shouldn’t be this difficult,” said Donovan. “I’ve proven he’s my father. I’ve given you my information. You know it’s his property. Why can’t you just give it back?”
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NCB10 Boston Responds went straight to the top and spoke to Assistant Treasurer, Mark William Bracken, who oversees the state’s 3.2 billion in unclaimed property.
“Once in a while someone’s going to get upset,” said Bracken. “They think there’s red tape. They don’t like the process, but we try to make it as simple as possible for the individuals, because we want to process as many claims as possible.”
Bracken says 80% of claims are considered easy, when the property is in your name, under a recent address, and your social security number matches up. He says the claim is processed quickly. Within minutes you receive an email, saying your claim has been approved and a check will be issued. Bracken admits the process is more stringent and more documentation is required to claim large amounts of money, or funds in the name of a deceased relative, to prevent fraud.
“The Treasury’s responsibility is to hold onto this money and to safeguard it,” said Bracken. “So when someone does come forward to claim it, we have to make sure we’re paying out the correct individual.”
He looked into Donovan’s complaint and quickly discovered the problem. She created nine separate claim forms, but Bracken says you’re supposed to click on all of the properties listed, and claim them as a group. The fact that the claims exceed $1,000 also raises the requirements for getting a payout.
“If it’s over $1,000 and it’s under $25,000, we do require individuals to go to court,” said Bracken. “If they have not done so in the past, get appointed a voluntary administrator for the estate. The court does charge a fee of around $130, but it does get a stamp from the clerk’s office and a judge, and that’s the court telling us who the rightful person is and who has the right to come forward and claim that property on behalf of the deceased individual.”
Donovan has already received $148 and is in the process of getting the court documents she needs to recover the more than $3,000 still under her father’s name.
So what do you do if you hit a well in your attempt to claim Mass Money?
If you’re not getting the answer that you need, ask to speak to a supervisor and be patient. It can take up to 12 weeks to get approval for the more difficult claims. There are still 3.2 billion worth of properties in the system waiting to be claimed, so check for your name at findmassmoney.com