Editorial: Pennsylvania Should Streamline Unclaimed Property Process

Sto Rox Community Federal Credit Union held a share of money for a woman named Genevieve.

Geneviève did not withdraw it. We don’t know why. She could have moved. Maybe she forgot. Maybe a relative opened the account for her and she never even knew about it. Maybe she died.

What we do know is that after a while, Geneviève’s money was passed on to the state for safekeeping.

Today, he’s embroiled in a pool of unclaimed property money held by Pennsylvania for thousands of other people — and businesses — just like her. There’s more than $4 billion jumbled up in a stew of things like misplaced pensions, neglected college funds, uncollected stock dividends, misdirected insurance payments, and the liquidated value of real estate in safes.

Connecting people and money is something the government generally does quite well. Not paying your taxes? You are located. Driving on the toll highway without E-ZPass while traveling? Your bill could be waiting for you in the mailbox before you get home.

Yet with this big pot, the government just sat on it and brought people to it. For what?

The whole system depends on you knowing you have assets to claim, even though Pennsylvania does not require institutions to tell you that your money has been returned to the state.

Then there are the obstacles. The database does not tell you how much an individual account is worth. Let’s go back to Geneviève’s. The entry only says it’s “under $100”. It could be next to nothing. Getting the money back could mean taking time off work, finding supporting documents, going to have the documents notarized, mailing them to Harrisburg or bringing them to a state legislator’s office.

And that’s if no one died. Pennsylvania requires you to purchase a copy of a state death certificate to return to the state for inclusion in the paperwork. If the owner’s estate was already closed, you may need to hire lawyers to reopen it without knowing the value of the property in question. All of this means claiming ownership could be a losing proposition.

State Treasurer Stacy Garrity is looking to make the process more automatic. A Spotlight PA story shows this requires changes to the law. A bill that would allow this has just been unanimously rejected by the committee.


The change would apply to funds under $5,000 for owners, not heirs. This would not apply to businesses or organizations. These more complicated cases would still require applications.

Garrity admitted that this would not significantly increase the amount of property returned. Big deal. Raising it at all is a good thing.

But more importantly, it is a way for the government to remove barriers to the process. There’s no reason to make it unnecessarily difficult to get your own money. Change the law and send her check to Genevieve.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *