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UNCLAIMED PROPERTY FOCUS is a blog written by and for UPPO members, featuring diverse perspectives and insights from unclaimed property practitioners across the U.S. and Canada. We welcome your submissions to Unclaimed Property Focus. Please contact Tim Dressen via tim@uppo.org with any questions about submitting a blog post for consideration and refer to our editorial guidelines when writing your blog post. Disclaimer: Information and/or comments to this blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice on compliance or reporting requirements.

 

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Meet Your 2020/21 UPPO President, Heather Steffans

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Throughout her life and career, 2020/21 UPPO President Heather Steffans has enjoyed helping others find solutions. Beginning with her childhood, assisting her three younger sisters with their homework, and continuing throughout her professional career, educating unclaimed property holders about the reporting process, this spirit of helping has served her – and those she helps – quite well.

 

“At the UPPO Annual Conference, I thoroughly enjoy presenting the 101 session,” she said. “I can see the lightbulb go off in their minds as I explain the nuances that most veterans take for granted, but for a first timer, can seem overwhelming. We’ve all stood in those shoes at one point in our career, and I get a great sense of satisfaction when those individuals come back with follow-up questions, confirming their knowledge and building on it.”

 

Heather began her unclaimed property career in 1997 with The Freedom Group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which hired her to expand the company’s unclaimed property software product (TRACKER) beyond its existing footprint in the insurance industry. Prior to the interview, she had never heard the word “escheatment” and barely understood what it meant. More than two decades later, she has never looked back.

 

As the company changed from The Freedom Group to Fiserv to Fiserv Insurance Solutions to Stone River during her 16-year tenure, Heather exceeded the initial vision of technology growth into different industries, and her role evolved. She began educating holders through webinars, conferences and client meetings, helping them navigate the confusing world of unclaimed property compliance and build relationships in the industry.

 

In 2013, she moved to Keane Unclaimed Property Services, marketing the company’s compliance solutions, before joining MarketSphere Unclaimed Property Specialists in 2014, where she currently serves as a partner of strategic solutions.

 

“I have a tremendous amount of passion for the consultative aspect of my job,” Steffans said. “After listening to each client’s challenges, I enjoy sharing how we can work together in a partnership capacity, discussing state reporting compliance, risk assessments or auditing trends, and how we can help. I also find it rewarding when we are able to successfully recover assets for a corporation.”

 

Heather attended her first unclaimed property conference in 1998, where she built relationships with early mentors, including Mike Ryan, Vicki Hoffman, Nancy Johnston, Anne Furdon and Barbara Briody. Since then, she has participated in nearly every UPPO conference and regional event, volunteered in every imaginable capacity for the organization, and was presented with the UPPO Presidential Award in 2010.

 

In addition to serving on virtually every UPPO committee, several work groups and special projects, she has served as a speaker, room monitor and industry breakout facilitator at numerous conferences, led webinars and contributed articles. In 2017, she was appointed Midwestern vice president on the UPPO board. A year later, she was elected second vice president, which led to her position as UPPO president for 2020/21.

 

Heather’s term begins amidst some unique challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in cancellation of the UPPO Annual Conference, the organization’s flagship event and a significant source of revenue. She and 2019/20 UPPO President Troy Wangen have collaborated very closely throughout this unusual time to work through the resulting challenges and keep UPPO moving forward. In her May President’s Message, she will discuss new initiatives developed as a result of the cancellation.

 

One UPPO’s strategic focuses Heather finds most exciting is building strategic relationships with the states.

 

“Continuing to improve lines of communication with NAUPA and individual state administrators is beneficial for all parties,” Steffans said. “We’ve been streamlining the communication efforts between parties to keep everyone aware of the very fluid environment we are working in with deadlines approaching and both parties working in less than ideal working conditions.”

 

Of course, there’s more to Heather than unclaimed property. When she’s not working, she enjoys traveling with her family, discovering new local restaurants, attending music concerts and baseball games, and exploring bike trails with her husband and friends.

 

 

 

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States Provide Additional Pandemic-Related Reporting Guidance

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 24, 2020

To continue helping members access vital information about how COVID-19 pandemic business disruptions affect their reporting responsibilities, UPPO recently asked NAUPA to pose a series of questions to state administrators. Following are the responses received by April 24.

 

UPPO also published a new COVID-19 State Reporting Guidance webpage to centralize the information compiled through its direct outreach to the states and subsequent work with NAUPA to gather additional information. This page will continue to be updated as states provide more information.

 

Automatic Spring Reporting Deadline Extensions: Will the states that have a spring or summer unclaimed report deadline consider an automatic extension similar to what Massachusetts and North Carolina did for life insurance companies? 

  • Delaware: Delaware’s spring reporting deadline has passed (March 1).
  • District of Columbia: D.C. has been granting extensions to holders during the pandemic for current reporting cycle. We have received and granted more than 60 requests for extensions from holders for the current period.
  • Indiana: Indiana does not have any plans to grant automatic extensions. Holders may still file an extension with our office per the instructions on our website.
  • Kansas: Kansas grants an automatic extension of May 1 Life Insurance reporting deadline to July 1.
  • Michigan: Michigan is considering individual extensions as they are requested.  If an extension is granted, it will be for 60 days, making the due date Sept. 1.
  • New Hampshire: No blanket extensions but will grant any extensions received. New Hampshire will not assess penalties or interest so long as good faith effort is made.
  • Oklahoma: Holder may request an extension.
  • South Dakota: South Dakota has extended the spring deadline until June 1. There is no decision at this time regarding the November deadline.
  • Texas: We do not have the authority to automatically extend the reporting deadline. However, waivers of penalty and/or interest assessments for property delivered late will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
  • West Virginia: For life insurance companies, West Virginia has decided not to extend the deadline. Upon request, individual extensions are being granted.

 

Due Diligence Extensions: Will the states consider extensions for due diligence efforts, which may in turn result in an extension for the reporting deadline?

  • Alaska: Alaska will work with holders on all due diligence matters, including extensions.
  • Delaware: Delaware’s spring reporting deadline has passed (March 1).
  • District of Columbia: We will consider and plan to approve extensions for holders who couldn’t meet the due diligence requirements during the current stay-at-home guidelines imposed by most states. We do understand that this will prolong the reporting process and that holders will subsequently need an extension for the fall reporting cycle.
  • Indiana: Indiana is not considering due diligence extensions, but we will consider this as a reason for a holder to file a reporting extension request for the November reporting season.
  • Kansas: Since Kansas is a Nov. 1 report state for all property types other than Life Insurance, we believe it is too soon to extend our due diligence requirement deadline of July 1. Kansas  will revisit potential due diligence extension on June 1.
  • Michigan: Michigan is considering individual extensions as they are requested. If an extension is granted, it will be for 60 days, making the due date Sept. 1. Due diligence should be performed by July 1 for holders with extensions.
  • New Hampshire: If holders can't do due diligence, New Hampshire will allow a reasonable time to finish due diligence.
  • Oklahoma: Holder may request an extension.
  • South Dakota: South Dakota will accept Life Insurance reports prior to June 22 without penalty if the delay is for due diligence.
  • Texas: Unfortunately, we do not have authority to waive the statutory deadline.
  • West Virginia: Our filing deadline for non-life insurance holders is Nov. 1. Due diligence will not start until July 1 for West Virginia properties. As we move closer to that date, we will reevaluate if an extension is still needed.

 

Safe Deposit Guidance: Financial institutions that also have tangible items to report (safe deposit box contents) have reported difficulties obtaining access to those areas maintaining a safe distance and many bank offices are closed. Massachusetts has provided an automatic two-month extension for this year. What guidance is available from other states that accept tangible property?

  • Alaska: Alaska will gladly extend the filing and remittance dates for safe deposit property.
  • District of Columbia: D.C. will allow holders of safe deposit boxes to file extensions for the reporting periods that were impacted during the crisis.
  • Indiana: Indiana will consider this as a reason for a holder to file a reporting extension request for the November reporting season.
  • Kansas: Kansas grants an automatic extension of Nov. 1 reporting for Safe Deposit Box and Safe Keeping type properties only to Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Oklahoma: Holder may request an extension.
  • South Dakota: No extension at this time since they are due Nov. 1.
  • Texas: Texas understands the concerns related to the remittance of tangible property. We would expect that holders still report tangible property by the filing deadline, July 1. However, we will not schedule the delivery of any tangible property until the current situation improves.

 

Report Notarization Waivers:  Are states that typically require a notary on the Verification & Checklist page willing to waive this requirement for a limited timeframe?

 

Foreign Property Owner Due Diligence Dilemma: The U.S. Postal Service is temporarily suspending service to a long list of countries. This is particularly concerning for the securities industry if they are unable to send due diligence letters to foreign property holders and the potential of unnecessary escheatment as a result. What guidance is available from states about how to handle this issue? 

  • Alaska: An email notification will suffice. If not available, file an extension and hold off until due diligence can be completed. 
  • Delaware: Delaware’s spring reporting deadline has passed (March 1).
  • District of Columbia: D.C. will most likely approve extensions to report property of owners with foreign address. Holders should seek permission to exclude properties that have foreign address on record. When postal restrictions are lifted and enough time has passed for due diligence to be performed those properties still found to be dormant can be reported on a subsequent report.  
  • Indiana: Indiana will consider this as a reason for a holder to file a reporting extension request for the November reporting season.
  • Kansas: Since Kansas is a Nov. 1 report state for all property types other than Life Insurance, we believe it is too soon to extend our due diligence requirement deadline of July 1. Kansas  will revisit potential due diligence extension on June 1.
  • Michigan: The due diligence letter should be mailed as soon as U.S. Postal Service restrictions are lifted. Proceed with the regular reporting process. It is advisable to include in the letter that, if a response is not received, the property will be reported to Michigan on *date* and provide Michigan Unclaimed Property’s website address. This will assist them in locating their property and establishing a claim, if the letter is late in getting to them.
  • New Hampshire: New Hampshire will provide reasonable time after things are back to normal.
  • Oklahoma: Holder may request an extension.
  • South Dakota: South Dakota will allow email contact during this time.
  • Texas: While we understand the suspension of mail service to certain countries may inadvertently result in some properties being reported as unclaimed property because an owner was not able to receive notice, we do not have the authority to change or suspend the mailing requirement.

Thank you to NAUPA for its assistance gathering this information and to state administrators who have responded.

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UPPO Holds Annual Business Meeting

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On March 30, 2020, the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization held its Annual Business Meeting. Although the UPPO Annual Conference cancellation meant the meeting wasn’t entirely business as usual, moving to a virtual format allowed for it to be held when it was originally scheduled.

 

2019/20 UPPO President Troy Wangen led the meeting, which included the following business:

  • Members voted to approve the 2019 UPPO Annual Business Meeting minutes.
  • Members voted to approve changes to the UPPO Bylaws that will restructure the board of directors to better reflect today’s unclaimed property environment, allow for more member involvement at the board level and encourage fresh perspectives to continue moving the organization forward. The approved amendments will become effective on May 1, 2020.
  • Wangen thanked the 2019/20 board, committee members and staff, and provided an update on UPPO’s work throughout the past year.
  • Wangen also introduced UPPO’s Patron Program, which recognizes UPPO members who contribute to the organization above and beyond membership dues. Watch for additional information in the coming weeks.
  • UPPO’s Scholarship Program Chancellor Sponsors Barganier & Associates and Marketsphere Unclaimed Property Specialists announced this year’s UPPO Scholarship winners: Abigail Kain, daughter of UPPO member Darren Kaine from Travelers Companies, and UPPO member Dana Terry.
  • Wangen announced and recognized this year’s UPPO award winners.
  • Immediate Past President Marilyn Henry installed the 2020/21 UPPO Board of Directors.
  • 2020/21 President Heather Steffans thanked Troy Wangen for his service as president and provided her outlook for the year ahead, which will also be featured in a President’s Message in next month’s Member Update.

View the meeting recording here.

 

Thank you to MarketSphere Unclaimed Property Specialists for generously donating use of its online meeting platform to UPPO for the annual business meeting.

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Colorado Clarifies Dormancy Period Changes

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Under Colorado’s new unclaimed property statute, effective on July 1, 2020, certain dormancy periods change from five years to three years. Some holders have questioned whether reporting for fall 2020 would rely on the five-year dormancy period from the existing statute that ends on June 30, 2020, or the new three-year dormancy period.

 

Peter Gunn, compliance manager with the Colorado Treasury Department provided clarification.

 

“All property reported up to June 30, 2020, will be required to adhere to the present dormancy guidelines,” he wrote. “Effective July 1, 2020, all property reported will be required to adhere to the new dormancy guidelines as part of the RUUPA. When reporting unclaimed property in the fall of 2020, all holders will be required to report unclaimed property based off of the new RUUPA.”

 

Thank you to Peter Gunn for his clarification.

Tags:  Colorado  unclaimed property 

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UPPO Works with Utah to Improve Proposed Rules

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 7, 2020

On Jan. 13, 2020, the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization submitted comments to Utah officials to voice concerns about Proposed Regulations R966-1 Unclaimed Property Act Rules. The rules appeared to be a nearly verbatim adaptation of Illinois Unclaimed Property Regulations. However, because Utah’s version of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act is vastly different from those in Illinois, adoption of the proposed rules would conflict with Utah’s law.

 

Utah Unclaimed Property Administrator Dennis Johnston subsequently responded to UPPO with proposed revisions to the rules. UPPO’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee reviewed the revised rules and provided follow-up comments on March 5, 2020. Although Utah addressed some of UPPO’s concerns outlined in January, a few were unaddressed. UPPO outlined these areas in its March comments:

  • Tax-deferred accounts: UPPO raised concerns about an apparent drafting error in Utah’s Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act that significantly affects the treatment of tax-deferred accounts. The proposed rules acknowledge the problem, but the rule intended to address the error conflicts with the Act itself.
  • Securities sales and claims: UPPO requested removal of a provision in the rules that would allow the administrator to liquidate escheated securities before the three-year  period defined in the Act, as it conflicts with the intention of the Act to protect the property owner.
  • Retention of records by holder: Although Utah addressed one of UPPO’s concerns about record retention in its revised rules, an inconsistency with the Act remains. As drafted, the rules would expand record retention requirements beyond what is included in the Act and indirectly expand the state’s estimation authority.
  • Due diligence notice by holder: UPPO raised concerns about a provision in the rules requiring due diligence notice to be sent via certified mail for securities valued at $1,000 or more. This requirement is not included in the Act, so UPPO requested it be amended to ensure consistency between the Act and the rules.

UPPO appreciates Utah promptly addressing some of the concerns identified in January and is hopeful the state will do the same with the remaining issues discussed in the organization’s March comments.

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  unclaimed property  utah 

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