What is an asset locatoror heir finder?

An Asset or Heir Finder is someone who charges a fee for locating an heir. Often the heir finder identifies abandoned or unclaimed property, locates the rightful owner or heir, and then wants to sign an agreement for a percentage of the property returned to the owner. There is no charge to the owner for the recovery of funds directly through the State Treasurer's Office.

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The Unclaimed Property Division encourages people who are considering entering into an agreement with an heir finder to consult with their local Better Business Bureau about the person or agency in question before signing any agreement. Abandoned property is never sent to a third person, it is always sent to the owner or rightful heir.

Requirements for Asset Locator Companies

In order to obtain and maintain registered status, all asset locatorsmust post a performance bond of not less than $10,000 to insure the Treasurer's Office against any fraudulent or mistaken claims that may arise as a result of an heir finder's representation of an owner. A copy of any agreement, or contract, between an asset locator and an owner shall be filed with the Treasurer's Office, together with a signed by the owner and notarized "notice to claimant" form, as prescribed by the Treasurer, describing the rights of the owner under this section.

An agreement between an owner and an asset locator, the primary purpose of which is to locate, deliver, recover or assist in the recovery of property that is presumed abandoned, shall be void and unenforceable if it was entered into during the period commencing on the date the property was presumed abandoned and extending to a time that is 24 months after the date the property is paid or delivered to the treasurer. This subsection shall not apply to an agreement between an owner and a Vermont licensed attorney to file a claim as to identified property or contest the treasurer's denial of a claim.

An agreement between an owner and an asset locator, the primary purpose of which is to locate, deliver, recover or assist in the recovery of property that is presumed abandoned, shall be enforceable only if the agreement is in writing in a form acceptable to the Treasurer, clearly sets forth the nature of the property and the services to be rendered, is signed by the apparent owner, and states the value of the property before and after the fee or other compensation has been deducted.

If an agreement covered by this section applies to mineral proceeds, and the agreement contains a provision to pay compensation that includes a portion of the underlying minerals or any mineral proceeds not then presumed abandoned, the provision is void and unenforceable.

An agreement between an owner and an asset locator, the primary purpose of which is to locate, deliver, recover or assist in the recovery of property that is presumed abandoned and that provides for compensation that exceeds 10 percent of the value of the unclaimed property, shall be unenforceable. This section does not preclude an owner from asserting that an agreement covered by this section is invalid on grounds other than excessive compensation.

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No claim form may be sent to an asset locator without the prior written permission of the owner, or the owner's legal representative. Payments of all claims made to an owner who has been assisted by an asset locator shall be made to the owner, and not to the asset locator. An owner may not assign his or her rights, or property interests, under this chapter to an asset locator.