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Florida auctioning $1 billion in unclaimed assets

In Tallahassee, the government keeps a storehouse of valuables that have gone unclaimed from safe deposit boxes over the years. Many times, these items end up with the state because no heirs can be found when an estate is distributing the assets of a deceased Floridian, or the executor and heirs are not aware of their existence.

Two auctions are to be held, one in June in Tampa, and in Ft. Lauderdale in August. The assets set to be sold include a South African Krugerrand, a set of silver flatware, and an old piece of paper money from 1776. The state comes into possession of these articles due to Florida law that requires banks to turn over the contents of safety deposit boxes if they have no contact with owners or their heirs for three years. Much of the property is from those who die without wills or listing heirs.

These types of auctions remind residents of West Palm Beach of the importance of having an estate plan. Even though there is a law with regard to intestate succession for those who do not specify their wishes in a valid document, it is much harder for heirs to be found and assets to be distributed than if the deceased has left a valid will.

If an individual has items of either commercial or sentimental value that he or she wishes certain people to have, it is imperative that a properly executed will be prepared. There are several specifications that a will document must meet to be valid, so looking into the law in this area is a good course of action. When a will is drawn up, other aspects of an estate plan can also be discussed, such as trusts to protect cash or assets from waste, and medical proxies and powers of attorney that can help in the case of incapacity.

It is imperative that potential heirs and the executor of an estate be told of all safety deposit boxes that a person might posses. Floridians should look into a good estate plan, or risk seeing their property auctioned off to a stranger who is the highest bidder.

Source: sunsentinel.com, "State to sell off some of its $1 billion in unclaimed property," Kathleen Haughney, May 13, 2013

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