By Fredrick P. Niemann of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Estate Administration and Probate Law Firm
Here’s a case I recently came upon.
A husband and wife were residents of Italy and came to the U.S. to visit relatives in NJ. While here, they purchased stock in a Delaware corporation. They also signed a POA in favor of their niece while in New Jersey. Subsequently, the husband and wife returned to Italy. Years later, the corporate stock was recalled for cash. No one claimed it because the corporation could not locate the Italian couple. The cash is now in the Delaware Unclaimed Property Fund. Husband died in Italy about two years ago survived by wife, who died intestate (meaning without a will) in Italy a few months ago.
A family member, namely the niece has tried to reclaim her aunt’s stock proceeds (about $10,000) from the Delaware Unclaimed Property Fund without success. Her POA is no longer legally valid in either New Jersey or Delaware.
She made inquiry with her local Surrogate’s Office and was told she must make application to the Surrogate’s Court where the property is located (Delaware).
The Delaware Surrogate’s Office told the niece she cannot make an original application in Delaware because neither she nor her aunt is a resident of Delaware. Delaware will only accept original applications from Delaware residents.
This doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m not familiar with the intestate succession laws of Delaware. Delaware has told her she has to first make application where her aunt was a resident on the date of death (Italy).
The issue presented now is how to reclaim the stock proceeds from the Unclaimed Property Fund in the State of Delaware.
When asked my opinion, I think you need to have someone appointed in Italy as the estate representative and then can have ancillary appointment in Delaware, under Delaware law(s).
Another possible alternative would be to secure appointment as executor in Italy and proceed directly with the state of Delaware unclaimed property fund since cash is an asset deemed located in the state of physical location.
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