A DC couple thought it would be a good idea to open savings accounts for their children. But when they recently went to deposit more money, they found the accounts were empty.
The family turned to NBC4 Responds to find the missing money.
“Last time I counted, I had $780,” said 10-year-old Coleman Walsh.
“I’m 20,” added her 5-year-old sister, Zoe Walsh.
Coleman and Zoe are good at saving money, thanks to their parents, Martin Walsh and Tricia Jefferson, who taught them healthy money habits early on. Their piggy banks are filled with money they earn doing chores around the house, and they are allowed to buy things from time to time.
Jefferson opened savings accounts for each of his children in December 2016. Zoe put in $20.03 and Coleman put in $30.05. The plan was to make small deposits here and there.
But as time passed and life — and the pandemic — got in the way, the two savings accounts remained there with their initial deposits.
“We were coming out of our pandemic bubble and we decided [the kids] had really accumulated a good amount of money in their piggy banks,” Jefferson said.
The family decided to fill the savings accounts with the children’s hard-earned money.
“We went to the bank. They said our savings accounts had been closed,” Coleman said.
The accounts weren’t just closed; their money was gone. The bank said the funds were turned over to DC’s unclaimed property unit.
“We’re obviously very confused,” Jefferson said.
The family was unaware, like many people, of the unclaimed property laws that banks must follow. Twelve months after an account enters inactive status, it becomes inactive. Each state has different time limits before you must legally close an account. In DC and Maryland, it’s three years. Virginia gives account holders five years before closing them.
Once an account is closed, whatever remains in it is considered unclaimed property that is turned over to the court.
“Do you think that’s fair?” NBC4 Responds asked the kids.
“No, because it takes me a long time to earn it,” said little Zoe.
NBC4 Responds contacted the family’s bank, which said it sent the parents a notice alerting them to the inactive status of the accounts. It was sent to an old address.
Zoe and Coleman’s parents must now file a claim with DC’s Unclaimed Property Unit to get their money back.
“The responsibility lies with us. We have to do all the work and, you know, try to get the money back,” Jefferson said.
We work for you to make sure your accounts stay active. Here are a few tips:
- Automate your savings. You can set monthly deposits or transfers of $5 to an account.
- Keep track of your account. Apps like Mint let you see all of your financial accounts on one screen.
While the family learned a lesson on how to keep tabs on their savings accounts, the kids decided to leave their money where it is for now.
“Now I keep it in my piggy bank and don’t trust the bank anymore,” Coleman said.
“I don’t trust the bank either,” her little sister repeated.