The definition of escheatment can be difficult to ascertain, especially in a court of law. While many states have certain escheatment periods, it can be difficult to define a dormant or inactive account in a black-and-white manner. For example, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, and California have some of the quickest turnaround times when it comes to escheatment. This means that if you have a dormant/inactive bank account, it will be handed over to the state. The period for a bank account is as low as 3 years, and checks and salaries can be escheated in as little as a year.
The issue is whether this is an efficient way to do things. For example, it is quite common for someone to leave an account to become inactive if they have forgotten about it, if they are outside of the country, or if the person with whom the fiduciary duty was entrusted did not deliver on their promise. This, of course, causes a huge issue if, for example, the financial planner for that individual works directly for the financial institution which is reporting the escheated account.
Fortunately, there are states with longer periods of dormancy or inactivity that may actually reflect a situation much better. Most states have a period of 5 years before checks, drafts, or bank accounts are placed into "escheated" status. It is a good reminder that this can only occur if the account or draft is dormant or inactive for this consecutive period. If the account holder comes along every few years to deposit, withdraw or update information, the clock resets. Some members who coordinate legislation may feel this is a more fair approach to escheating funds rather than shortening the time period between claiming or garnishment.
When it comes to the escheatment of wages and salaries, the large majority of states set the limit at one year. However, a few states have longer turnaround times. North Dakota and Pennsylvania have a period of two years while Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Kentucky, and Ohio all have a period of three years before escheatment. The longest escheatment period for wages is five years in the state of Delaware.
Unclaimed property does not benefit anyone. If the funds do not belong to someone specifically, or if they do not make the effort to show that the funds are useful in their possession, money has long gone and sat in accounts, becoming lost in the economic landscape. This presents huge issues, including taking money out of circulation without the intent of the state or federal reserve. If escheatment was not put into place, the reserve may need to adjust interest rates or print more money into circulation to maintain a healthy economy.