Mom's estate – found an asset but wants 35%. Alternatives?
August 1, 2007 7:25 AM   Subscribe

My mother passed away in 2003 and 3 of us siblings split the estate. Fast forward to 2007, when we are contacted by, who claims there is over $2,500 in unclaimed assets in mom’s name. EquiSearch, of course, would be thrilled to help us get this money but will take 35% of the proceeds for their trouble. How can we find this asset ourselves? We aren't aware of any stock, insurance, bank, or other accounts but apparently there was one. If there is an option that doesn't require the huge percentage fee (like a flat rate fee from another company) what is it? I would strongly prefer to avoid doing business with EquiSearch. Thanks for your help!
posted by phildog to Work & Money (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling the name of the state where your mother lived and unclaimed. (For example: 'California unclaimed'). There may be a state webpage which lists any unclaimed assets.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:28 AM on August 1, 2007

Try this thread?
posted by ersatzkat at 7:30 AM on August 1, 2007

Our state treasurers office has an "unclaimed property" division and website where you can search for any name, and then they'll help you claim it.

I suggest you start there.
posted by TomMelee at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2007

Try It's a legit site run by the various state treasurers offices.
posted by dcjd at 7:45 AM on August 1, 2007

Some more info I should probably have pointed out:

The letter from EquiSearch states: This is not an account where the proceeds have been turned over to the state.

And I believe them, since the FL website claims:
Is there a limit on the fees these locator companies can charge? Yes. Fees are limited to 20%, up to a maximum of $1,000 per account.

So, EquiSearch would NOT be charging 35% if the state knew about the asset.
posted by phildog at 7:57 AM on August 1, 2007

In addition, if you look at Florida's list of registered firms, EquiSearch isn't even on the list.
posted by jmd82 at 8:07 AM on August 1, 2007

According to the list on the Florida website, EquiSearch is not a licensed claimant's representative in that state.
I'd try a search on every state your mother may have had financial dealing in, starting with and then going through the list here.
posted by Floydd at 8:11 AM on August 1, 2007

Some good info here and here.

I would begin by contacting Florida's Attorney General's office.
posted by gfrobe at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2007

Could this be a scam?
posted by LarryC at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2007

Not really an answer, so I'm aware and accepting that my reply may be flagged/deleted as noise -- but I just wanted to say thank you for asking this question.

I discovered through dcjd's link that I had nearly $700 out there, unclaimed. And far from EquiSearch's 35%, the state is just charging me 1%. So yeah - I would have to second his fine suggestion!
posted by kaseijin at 8:26 AM on August 1, 2007

Let me first say that while you may be right, you may also be very generous in assuming that EquiSearch is complying with state regulations. I have no experience with this kind of firm but the quantity of debt collection agencies that work completely in defiance of both federal and state law and regulation requirements is astounding. Don't assume that just because they do something that it's properly vetted.

Unclaimed Assets - the first hit when I googled 'lost asset' so you can find other alternatives - has a lot of fixed price tools thought they seem to revolve around knowing what kind of asset you're looking for.

You might consider the value of your time and capital outlay in trying to avoid EquiSearch in this. You have in your hands now the potential to acquire $1625 for the cost of a signature. You're considering investing time and money with the hope that you'll acquire an additional $875. There's two possibilities here - you'll be successful and get some of that $875 or you'll spend some quantity of money chasing it and be unsuccessful, at the end of which you just have to shave those expenses off the $1625.

I don't know a lot about the lost asset business but I'd suspect there's a non-zero possibility there's not really any money there for you. If EquiSearch finds an asset and there's 3 people it might possibly belong to it doesn't make any sense for them to spend 1 second determining which of those 3 is the rightful owner. The smart business move is to send a letter to all three and only do more work when one of them takes them up on the offer. If they invest the time for Person A and it's not their money then all they do is say "Sorry buddy" and put the person they discover is the rightful owner in a stack to contact again later, perhaps with a 5% discounted offer.

So I'd just be careful about investing a lot of your money and time in this search. You might be chasing a ghost.
posted by phearlez at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2007

Equisearch is not a scam. It is a reputable company based in White Plains NY that used to be owned by ChoicePoint and is now owned by Palladian Capital Partners. They contract with banks, utilities, etc to find missing account holders and return funds to them before the funds must be turned over to state unclaimed property departments. The companies they contract with are supposed to show some due diligence in trying to return the money, and this is how they do it (rather than maintain a staff of their own to track people down).

If you wait, sooner or later this money will be in a state unclaimed property office, but you'll have to keep checking and you don't know how long it will take. If you respond, you'll have a check from Equisearch, minus their fee, pretty promptly. If you have tried all likely sources, I'd go for it.
posted by beagle at 9:02 AM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]

Nice catch, LarryC.

If it was me, though, I'd call them up and counteroffer them 5%. It'll eventually go to the state and they'll get nothing, so nothing to lose there unless you or your siblings really really need that $1625 ($2500 - 35%).
posted by rhizome at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2007

@rhizome - GREAT suggestion. You just saved me at least $700.

I called EquiSearch and they agreed to go down to 25% and they also divulged some more info: that the account has over $7,000. So this probably makes it worth investing a little more of my time. But even if I end up using EquiSearch I've already saved money just by picking up the phone.
posted by phildog at 11:36 AM on August 1, 2007

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