Ciresi introduces bill to help heirs access unclaimed property

HARRISBURG, July 17 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi has introduced legislation that would make it easier for a deceased person’s relatives to claim the deceased's property the state is holding.

The Pennsylvania treasury holds more than $3 billion in unclaimed property, such as uncashed checks, lost stocks or bonds, or closed bank accounts. But because of an inconsistency in law, some categories of relatives have a harder time legitimately claiming that property on behalf of their deceased relatives.

“As constituents visit my office for help with unclaimed property searches, we’ve seen this problem arise, so we worked with the state Treasurer's Office to find a solution,” said Ciresi, D-Montgomery.

Certain close relatives of a deceased person – surviving spouse, child, parent, sibling – can file for unclaimed property using a notarized sworn relationship affidavit, which saves them the effort and expense of having to open or re-open the deceased’s estate.

But other relatives – grandchildren, nephews, nieces and others – are not included in that section of law and cannot claim by affidavit even if they are the closest surviving relative.

“The dollar value of the unclaimed property might not make it worthwhile for a relative to open or re-open their relative’s estate. So that money will remain with the state treasury, unclaimed, and the problem will just get worse with time,” Ciresi said. “My legislation would help get this unclaimed money into the rightful hands.”

Ciresi’s legislation, H.B. 1724, would change Pennsylvania’s law for claiming unclaimed property to match the existing intestate succession law, making it easier for grandchildren and other relatives to claim money held by deceased relatives. It would only apply to situations where an affidavit can already be used to claim -- for properties under $11,000 and when no estate was ever opened or five years have passed since it was open.

The legislation, which has bipartisan co-sponsors, also includes and strengthens safeguards to ensure that only relatives with the strongest claim would be eligible under this method.