As we have grown more mobile as a society, property is left unclaimed at a rate that would astound most people. In fact, every state holds property that belongs to someone because it has been abandoned. Account holders (banks, mutual fund companies, insurance companies, etc.) are obligated by law to report property to the state in the event that they lose contact with the original account owner for a period of time. Generally, the time frame for property to be considered abandoned is five years, though in some states it may be more or less.
When a company, government agency or other legal entity holds property on behalf of a third person, they have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the property in safe-keeping. However, states felt that this was putting an undue burden on those account holders. This is because there are laws that impact how frequently these companies must be in contact with account owners. In the event that companies lose contact (generally by mail) then they have the added expense of mailing letters that will never arrive.
Unclaimed property laws were designed to prevent waste of resources and the higher expense of contacting account owners. In addition, these laws were also designed to protect account owners from fraud and loss of their property. Companies must report unclaimed property to state agencies, in New Mexico, the property is reported to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. These reports must be filed by all companies who hold assets on behalf of account owners that cannot be located.
Identifying unclaimed property
For account owners who have lived or worked in New Mexico, it is crucial that they know how to find unclaimed property. This property is held in perpetuity by the state until such time as the property is claimed by the original account owner or their heirs. There is never a fee to claim property, nor does the time to claim property ever expire. Like many other states, New Mexico manages their unclaimed property base through Missing Money. Property owners can search this database by name to find property that belongs to them.
For an account owner to successfully claim property that was abandoned, they must provide specific documentation. Documents often include photo identification, confirmation of ownership (using cancelled checks, old address records, etc.) and in the event that the account owner is deceased, proof of the claimants right to the property.
Account owners are often contacted by tracing companies that offer to help them find and claim property. In many cases, these tracers charge high fees and have access to the same information that is available in the unclaimed property database. Consumers who receive a mailing telling them that property has been identified in their names should review records of all states they have lived in previously. This will allow them to file a claim at no charge without paying a tracing agent. Consumers who file their claims and provide all of the required documentation should be able to claim their property within ninety days of filing.