1. That would appear to be the most accurate figure available. It is
similar to other sources, and the Controller of the State of
California is responsible for administering the Unclaimed Property
2. I have not been able to locate any figures that would answer this
question precisely. However, the figures I have found will give you
an approximate idea of how the amount has been collected over time.
The Unclaimed Property Fund has been in operation since 1959. Since
amounts exceeding $50,000 are transferred from the Unclaimed Property
Fund to the General Fund on a monthly basis, the balance tracked for
the Unclaimed Property Fund in the Comprehensive Financial Annual
Report is not representative of the actual amount held by the state.
Most of the amount the state has collected has been transferred to the
The earliest figure I have been able to find is $2.4 billion in
unclaimed property as of 1998. "Unclaimed Property and Estates with
No Known Heirs or Where Heirs Cannot be Located"
http://www.baha.org/bari/unclaimed.html. Since the state collected
almost $140 million that year after disbursements, and assuming the
amount collected had been increasing, it is reasonable to assume that
the majority of the $2.4 billion had been collected since 1988.
More detailed figures exist in the "California State Auditor Report
2002-122" (2002) http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2002-122.pdf p.
9-11. The fund's receipts grew from $304 million in fiscal 1997-98 to
$402 million in fiscal 2002-2003, reaching $457 million in fiscal
2001-2002. Significant disbursements also occurred during this
3. "Property law is a cash cow for Sacramento" by Ed Mendel,
Union-Tribune (June 27, 2005)
describes the current state of affairs. The article confirms the
state holds over $4 billion and indicates receipts exploded to $879
million in fiscal 2003 with disbursements of $177 million. Fiscal
2004 revenue was expected to be $823 million, with an expected drop to
$473 million in Fiscal 2005.
Based on these figures, it would be reasonable to estimate that of the
$4.8 billion, $700 million is one year old, another $700 million is
two years old, about $1 billion is between 3 and 8 years old, at least
$1.4 billion is between 9 and 17 years old, and something less than $1
billion is between 18 and 46 years old. It is probable that more of
it is between 9 and 17 years old and less is between 18 and 46 years
old, with most of the remainder being in the range of 18 to 35 years
I observe that the state does not provide investigators with data from
accounts dating earlier than 1975 on its CD-ROMs, which suggests there
are very few accounts older than that. "Notice to Investigators"
California State Controller (October 2005)
Search terms: unclaimed property california controller fiscal year,
california unclaimed property, california unclaimed property system
Request for Answer Clarification by
07 Dec 2005 15:15 PST
Thank you for this information. I am not sure how you determined this information:
"Based on these figures, it would be reasonable to estimate that of
the $4.8 billion, $700 million is one year old, another $700 million
is two years old, about $1 billion is between 3 and 8 years old, at
least $1.4 billion is between 9 and 17 years old, and something less
than $1 billion is between 18 and 46 years old. It is probable that
more of it is between 9 and 17 years old and less is between 18 and 46
years old, with most of the remainder being in the range of 18 to 35
How can I estimate how much unclaimed property is more than 10 years old?
Clarification of Answer by
07 Dec 2005 16:43 PST
Here is my best estimate from the data I was able to collect, along
with an explanation of how I arrive at my answer.
From the sources I cited, we know that as of mid-2002, the state had
$3.4 billion. By subtracting the disbursements and adding receipts,
we arrive at a figure of $2.168 billion as of mid-1997, with receipts
of $304 million and disbursements of $124 million during fiscal
1997-1998, for a net increase of $180 million. This results in a
calculation of $2.348 billion for mid-1998, which is a close match to
another source's figure of $2.4 billion, indicating our figure for
mid-1997 is accurate.
If we assume a similar amount of increase during the preceding two
years (1995-1996 and 1996-1997), we estimate the state had ($2.168
billion - $360 million) or $1.808 billion in mid-1995.
Worst case, all of the disbursements in 1996 were collected in
mid-1995 or earlier, so this would decrease the amount older than 10
years in the current fund by $124 million, leaving us with $1.684
billion. Clearly, over the last ten years, a portion of the
disbursements will have further lowered the amount older than 10
years, but probably not by a lot.
We have two items of information that suggest this. First, the amount
of disbursements has risen significantly with the amount of receipts,
indicating that a lot of what is being disbursed is recently collected
property. This in turn suggests that if something is not disbursed
within a few years after it enters the Unclaimed Property Fund, it
will not be claimed. Second, the state is not making information from
before 1975 available to investigators, suggesting the state does not
believe anyone will ever claim it.
In conclusion, it appears certain that less than $2 billion of it is
more than 10 years old. We know for sure that the state has $4.8
billion now (2005) and that it had $3.4 billion in 2002. With the
figures in the auditor's report, we can arrive at a definitive figure
for 1997 of $2.168 billion. It is then a matter of estimating in the
manner I described to arrive at a reasonable estimate for the amount
in 1995 and how much it may have been decreased by disbursements
Therefore, I know for sure there is less than $2 billion that is more
than 10 years old, and I am comfortable estimating the amount is no
more than $1.7 billion and perhaps somewhat less than that. Not
knowing specifics about the age of accounts resulting in
disbursements, it is not possible to be more definitive than that.
I hope this better explains my method of estimation and gives you a
useful number for the amount of money in the fund over 10 years old.