Q. Grandma got her niece and nephew a 529 plan. The problem is that she doesn’t remember the details or any of the account information. How can we research this?
A. That was very nice of Grandma, and you should be able to find the account.
It will just take a bit of detective work.
It’s possible that the funds have been turned over to the state as unclaimed property, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.
The process is called “escheatment” and occurs when an account shows no activity or the owner can not be contacted by the custodian for some period of time, Mott said.
“In New Jersey, the dormancy period is three years for many accounts,” she said. “As a first step, try to search for the account on the N.J. unclaimed property website and see if you are able to locate it.”
If you strike gold, the claim process form and instructions are located on the same site, she said.
Mott said there is also a national organization that can provide detail on other states in the event that Grandma may have moved over the years. If you need to broaden your search, try www.unclaimed.org.
If that doesn’t work, the process to locate the account will require more digging, Mott said.
First, search through paperwork that Grandma may have at home and look for evidence of the account, such as a statement from a financial institution where it was opened or transferred.
“An old bank statement or check could confirm the deposits that were made and when,” Mott said. “The check would show the name of the custodian that you could follow up with. You may consider reaching out to the bank to find out how far back records could be obtained if that was the source of the funds.”
If the money was transferred from an investment account, an old statement will show when the transfer took place, Mott said.
“The originating firm may still have old transfer documents on record that will help locate the custodian,” she said. “If statements are not available and an investment account was the source of the deposits, an initial call to find out how to access old records may be a starting point.”
Another option would be to make a list of 529 custodians who have been around as long as Grandma’s niece and nephew, or any firm that Grandma may have been familiar with and try calling them, she said.
“You may not be able to get far in terms of details, but they may be willing to confirm the existence of the account if you have some identifying information that they’ll accept,” Mott said. “As you begin the research process please be aware that there are many sites and firms that will perform searches for you, but at a cost.”
Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.