The Unclaimed Funds Act of Ohio to Bring Help to Closed Estates with Unclaimed Funds
Administering an Ohio estate can be challenging for personal representatives, and there is usually a sense of relief and satisfaction when the process is successfully completed. But what happens when an estate is closed, and it is later discovered that the state of Ohio was holding unclaimed funds for the deceased? Does the estate need to be reopened?
Historically, the answer to that question has been yes, resulting in additional paperwork, effort and expense, sometimes to recover only a relatively small amount of money. Fortunately, House Bill 270, which was passed unanimously by the Ohio House, may change all that, making the process of reclaiming previously unclaimed funds on behalf of an estate much more straightforward.
The bill, which makes multiple changes to the Unclaimed Funds Act of Ohio, creates a procedure that streamlines the process for small or closed estates to claim funds that belonged to a decedent and which lay unclaimed with the state. The proposed Ohio Revised Code 169.052 is expected to pass the Senate without difficulty or significant amendment.
How House Bill 270 Changes the Unclaimed Funds Act of Ohio
This is a welcome development. In the past, if a small or closed estate needed to claim unclaimed funds, the following needed to happen:
- Re-open the estate;
- Notify next of kin and beneficiaries;
- Appoint a fiduciary;
- File an amended inventory for the estate;
- Petition for a court order for the Ohio Department of Commerce to pay the funds to the estate;
- Distribution of the funds to the beneficiaries entitled to them;
- File an amended final report for the estate.
The procedure introduced by House Bill 270 is designed to eliminate these burdensome requirements. With this small or closed estate affidavit procedure, a decedent’s next-of-kin or heirs may claim unclaimed funds directly from the state without the need to reopen probate and obtain letters of administration or letters testamentary.
The Streamlined Claims Process for Small or Closed Estates
The Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce will distribute funds to a person requesting them under the following conditions:
- At least 210 days have passed since the death of the owner of the funds;
- The total of unclaimed funds are valued at no more than $5,000;
- The claimant is the surviving spouse of the deceased owner; a surviving child (natural-born or adopted) of the deceased owner; or a parent of the deceased owner (in that order of priority).
The claimant must furnish all of the following in order to have the funds released to them:
- A certified death certificate for the deceased;
- A list of all individual beneficiaries in the deceased person’s will. If there is no will, a list of those people who would inherit under Ohio’s intestacy law;
- A sworn affidavit containing the name of the deceased property owner; the date and place of the owner’s death; a statement that more than 210 days have elapsed since the death; a statement that no executor, administrator, or commissioner has been appointed and there is no application to relieve an estate from administration is pending or the executor, administrator, or commissioner has been discharged; and
- A description and dollar value of the unclaimed property;
- A statement that the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased have been paid or that the unclaimed funds will be used to pay those expenses;
- A statement that the person claiming the property is entitled to inherit from the deceased either under a will or under Ohio’s intestacy law;
- A statement that “no other person has a superior right to the interest of the decedent in the described property;”
- A request that the item be paid, delivered, or transferred to the claimant;
- A statement that the claimant will distribute the funds according to the deceased owner’s will, if one exists, or according to Ohio’s intestacy law if the owner died without a will;
- An affirmation under penalty of perjury that all of the information included in the affidavit is true and correct.
If a claimant provides all necessary documentation and an affidavit that complies with all legal requirements, the Director will be released from responsibility for the funds once they are released. This release is the same as that which would occur if the Director distributed the funds to the duly-appointed executor, administrator, or commissioner of a decedent’s open estate.
In addition to the streamlined process to claim unclaimed funds on behalf of a decedent’s estate, the Act makes other revisions to the law of unclaimed funds, including addressing virtual currency such as Bitcoin as unclaimed funds.
If you have questions about how to claim a deceased person’s unclaimed property for their estate, contact an experienced Ohio probate attorney.