Goss: State doesn’t ‘seize’ dormant bank accounts

July 9, 2014 

Recently, I received a call from a man who was upset about something he read online.

The article was titled “Georgia to Seize Dormant Bank Accounts.” The article claims, “What that means to average Georgians is that if you fail to utilize your account within one year your deposited funds will be confiscated by the state.”

When I talked with him, he relayed all the things he was frustrated about. He was so frustrated that believing the state would confiscate his bank account was not a stretch for him.

I see a lot of frustrated people. And, the more frustrated people get, the more willing they are to take risks, or believe things that may not be true.

For example, a lot of people have called me asking what I think about buying gold. When I ask them why they are considering doing this, they tell me that they are frustrated with low interest rates, and that gold never loses value. Their frustration has led them to believe a phrase that is not accurate.

I had not heard anything about Georgia seizing bank accounts, so I had to do some research. What I learned is that typically, a bank designates an account as dormant if there are no customer transactions in the account (deposits or withdrawals) in a 12-month period.

Interest deposits do not count as transactions. I called my bank, and it actually claims an account is dormant if there is no activity for six months.

At the point a dormant account is flagged, a letter is sent to the customer, letting them know that the account is dormant and that they need to take action. The bank does not want to lose these deposits, so they make a serious effort to locate the account holder.

According to www.bankrate.com, a bank will typically try to reach the account owner for three to five years before the account is escheated to the state.

The money is then held by the Georgia Department of Revenue in an account for the owner/heirs and they attempt to reach these people.

There is no statute of limitations on unclaimed property, so the state does not take this money. It is held in trust for the owner or beneficiary. Other property that makes its way to the Department of Revenue includes: safety deposit boxes (contents are sold and cash is held in an account), insurance policies, pensions, stock accounts, trust funds, utility deposits, rent deposits and mortgage insurance refunds.

Sometimes people forget about money that is owed back to them, or they move, or they die without telling family members about an account. If you would like to search the Georgia Department of Revenue for unclaimed property, visit its website.

And, how do you avoid all of this going forward? Make a transaction in your bank accounts once a year and give someone in your family a list of your accounts/assets.

Sherri Goss is vice president of Rosenberg Financial Group, Inc., with offices in Macon and Warner Robins. You can reach her by calling 922-8100, or via email at sherri@rfmoney.com.

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