Article 1 Short Title; Declaration of Policy; Definitions
Section 101. Short title.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Abandoned Property Law."
Section 102. Declaration of policy.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state, while protecting the interest of the owners thereof, to utilize escheated lands and unclaimed property for the benefit of all the people of the state, and this chapter shall be liberally construed to accomplish such purpose.
Section 103. Definitions.
As used in this chapter
(a) "Abandoned property fund" means the abandoned property fund established by section ninety-five of the state finance law, as such section was added by a chapter of the laws of nineteen hundred forty-four, entitled "An act to amend the state finance law, in relation to establishing an abandoned property fund and providing for the transfer of certain moneys and property to such fund, and to amend the surrogate's court act in relation to payments from such fund."
(b) "Abandoned property heretofore paid to the state" means, unless a more limited meaning clearly appears from the context, all money or other personal property collected or received by the state comptroller or the department of taxation and finance pursuant to the provisions of
(i) section twenty-two hundred twenty-two of the surrogate's court procedure act;
(ii) subdivision two of section five, sections thirty-two, one hundred twenty-seven, one hundred seventy, two hundred fifty-seven and three hundred fourteen of the banking law;
(iii) subsection (c) of section seven thousand four hundred thirty-four of the insurance law;
(iv) subdivision four of section sixty-six-a and section one hundred four-c of the public service law;
(v) section thirteen-c of the transportation corporations law;
(vi) sections eighty-four, ninety and ninety-two of the state finance law;
(vii) section four hundred twenty-four of the vehicle and traffic law;
(viii) section one hundred thirty-eight of the navigation law;
(ix) and any earlier provision of law which embodies provisions which are substantially the same as or equivalent to those contained in such sections.
(c) "Banking organizations" means all banks, trust companies, private bankers, savings banks, industrial banks, safe deposit companies, savings and loan associations, credit unions and investment companies in this state, organized under or subject to the provisions of the laws of this state, or of the United States, including entities organized under section six hundred eleven of title twelve of the United States code, but does not include federal reserve banks. For the purposes of this chapter, the term "banking organization" shall also include any corporation or other organization which is a wholly or partially owned subsidiary of any banking organization, banking corporation, or bank holding company, which performs any or all of the functions of a banking organization, or any corporation or other organization which performs such functions pursuant to the terms of a contract with any banking organization.
(d) "Infant" means a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years.
"Infancy" means the state of being an infant.
(e) "Life insurance corporation" means any insurer corporation organized under the laws of this state or any foreign corporation authorized to do either one or both kinds of insurance business authorized in paragraphs one and two of subsection (a) of section one thousand one hundred thirteen of the insurance law, as amended from time to time. The term life insurance corporation shall include a fraternal benefit society as defined in section four thousand five hundred one of the insurance law.
(f) "Utility services" means gas, electricity or steam supplied by a gas, electric, gas and electric or district steam corporation, telephone, telegraph or other service furnished by a telephone, telegraph or telegraph and telephone corporation, water supplied by a waterworks corporation, or appliances, equipment, installations, fixtures or appurtenances rented by any such corporation.
(g) "Gift certificate" shall mean a written promise or electronic payment device that: (i) is usable at a single merchant or an affiliated group of merchants that share the same name, mark, or logo, or is usable at multiple, unaffiliated merchants or service providers; and (ii) is issued in a specified amount; and (iii) may or may not be increased in value or reloaded; and (iv) is purchased and/or loaded on a prepaid basis for the future purchase or delivery of any goods or services; and (v) is honored upon presentation. Gift certificate shall not include an electronic payment device linked to a deposit account, or prepaid telephone calling cards regulated under section ninety-two-f of the public service law. Gift certificate also shall not include flexible spending arrangements as defined in Section 106(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 106(c)(2); flexible spending accounts subject to Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 125; Archer MSAs as defined in Section 220(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 220(d); dependent care reimbursement accounts subject to Section 129 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 129; health savings accounts subject to Section 223(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 223(d), as amended by Section 1201 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-173; or similar accounts from which, under the Internal Revenue Code and its implementing regulations, individuals may pay medical expenses, health care expenses, dependent care expenses, or similar expenses on a pretax basis. Gift certificate also shall not include a prepaid discount card or program used to purchase identified goods or services at a price or percentage below the normal and customary price; provided that the expiration date of the prepaid discount card or program is clearly and conspicuously disclosed. Gift certificate also shall not include payroll cards or other electronic payment devices which are linked to a deposit account and which are given in exchange for goods or services rendered.
Article 2 Escheat of Real Property
Section 200. Escheated lands.
All lands the title of which shall fail from a defect of heirs, shall revert, or escheat, to the people.
Section 201. Action for recovery of property.
Whenever the attorney-general has good reason to believe that the title to, or right of possession of, any real property has vested in the people of the state by escheat whether from defect of heirs, alienage or otherwise, or by conviction or outlawry for treason as provided in section eight hundred nineteen of the code of criminal procedure, he may commence an action to recover the property.
Section 202. Parties to action.
There may be made parties to such action, all persons who would have, might have or might claim to have any interest in or lien upon the premises so escheated or forfeited, at the time of such escheat or forfeiture, and all persons in possession of such real property. Where the names of the defendants are unknown, they may be designated as "unknown defendants." The provisions of law applicable to actions to recover real property shall apply to such actions, except that service of the summons shall not be deemed to be complete until, pursuant to an order of the court, the summons together with a notice directed to the defendants setting forth the object of the action, a brief description of the land affected, the source and manner in and by which it is alleged that said real property shall have escheated or forfeited to the people, and the name or names of person or persons whose title or interest shall have so escheated or have been forfeited, shall have been published once in each week for four successive weeks in two newspapers designated in the order for such publication as most likely to give notice to the defendants to be served.
Section 203. Effect of judgment in favor of people.
A final judgment in favor of the people in an action authorized as set forth in section two hundred one is conclusive as to the title of the people in and to the premises described in said judgment against any and all parties in said action, including unknown defendants, and against any and all persons claiming from, through or under such a party by title accruing after the filing of the judgment roll or after the filing in the office of the clerk of the county in which said real property or a part thereof is situated, a notice of the pendency of the action.
Section 204. Sale of property recovered.
Upon the rendering of final judgment in an action authorized by section two hundred one, the commissioner of general services may sell or transfer the property as unappropriated land in accordance with the provisions of article three of the public lands law.
Section 205. Report by attorney-general.
The attorney-general shall report to the commissioner of general services all the real property recovered by the people in any action brought pursuant to this article.
Section 206. Petition for release of escheated lands.
1. Where there is good reason to believe that real property shall have escheated to the state and final judgment shall not have been entered as hereinbefore provided, a petition for the release to the petitioner of any interest in real property believed to have escheated to the state by reason of the failure of heirs or the incapacity, for any reason except infancy or mental incompetency, of any of the petitioner's alleged predecessors in interest to take such property by devise or otherwise, or to convey the same or by reason of the alienage of any person, who but for such alienage would have succeeded to such interest, may be presented to the commissioner of general services within forty years after such escheat. Such petition may be presented:
a. By any person who would have succeeded to such interest but for his alienage or the alienage of another person, or
b. By the surviving husband, widow, stepfather, stepmother or adopted child of the person whose interest has so escheated, or
c. By the purchaser at a judicial sale or sheriff's sale on execution, or
d. By an heir, devisee, assignee, grantee, immediate or remote, or executor of any person, who but for his death, assignment or grant could present such petition, or the alleged grantee of any person or of any association or body, whether incorporated or not, who or which would have succeeded by devise or otherwise to the title of such person but for his alienage or a legal incapacity to take or convey the property so escheated, or
e. By a person having a contract to purchase made prior to the date of escheat with the person whose interest shall have escheated.
2. Such petition shall be verified by each petitioner in the same manner as a pleading in a court of record may be verified, and shall allege:
a. The name and residence of each person owning any interest in such real property immediately prior to the escheat;
b. The name and residence of each petitioner and the circumstances which entitle him to present such petition;
c. The name and place of residence of every person who would have succeeded to any such interest but for his alienage or the alienage of another or any other rule of legal incapacity hereinabove mentioned affecting an attempted transfer of such interest to such person or to or by any of his alleged predecessors in interest;
d. The description and value, at the date of the verification of the petition, of such real property sought to be released;
e. The description and value, at the date of the verification of the petition, of all the property of every such owner, which shall have escheated to the people of the state by reason of failure of heirs or alienage and which shall not then have been released or conveyed by the state;
f. The name and residence of each person having or claiming an interest in such real property at the date of the verification of the petition and the nature and value of such interest;
g. Any special facts or circumstances by reason of which it is claimed that such interest should be released to the petitioner;
h. The name and residence of each person in possession or occupation of the premises and the nature, if any, of the interest of such person;
i. The name and residence of each person having filed a protest with the commissioner of general services under the provisions of section two hundred ten.
Such petition may be filed within sixty days after its verification with the office of general services.
Section 207. Proceedings on receipt of petition.
Prior to the presentation of such petition, the petitioner shall cause to be personally served upon each person who would have succeeded to any interest in said land but for the alienage of such person or another or for any other rule of legal incapacity hereinbefore mentioned affecting an attempted transfer of such interest of such person, and each person in possession or occupation or who has filed a protest under section two hundred ten, whose names and places of residence are known and cause to be published in a newspaper published in each county in which any part of said land is situated, once in each week for three successive weeks as to those whose names and places of residence are unknown, a notice, in form adopted or approved by the commissioner, directed to such persons. Such notice shall state the date on which such petition shall be filed with the office of general services, the nature of the application, a description of the property affected and the name of the person or persons whose interest or interests shall have escheated to the people of the state of New York. Such notice shall also provide that any person or persons having a claim or right to said property equal to or superior to the right of the petitioner may file a remonstrance with the said commissioner on or before the date of said filing against the granting of such petition and for the granting of a release to such person or persons. Proof of service and of publication as aforementioned shall be filed with the petition. The commissioner may take proof of the facts alleged in said petition, by written or oral evidence, whether or not a sale or release of said property was theretofore made, the value of the property to be released, and such other facts as in his judgment are necessary to determine the matter. If a remonstrance shall have been presented, the commissioner may take proof of the issues raised thereby and the relief therein asked. The commissioner may, as a condition of hearing the matter, require the petitioner or any remonstrant to produce witnesses or advance the expense of producing them.
Section 208. Release.
1. The commissioner shall make his determination and enter an order accordingly. The commissioner may agreeably to the best interest of the state and in his discretion, if he deems it just to all persons interested, execute in the name of the state, a release on such terms and conditions as the commissioner deems just, releasing to such person or persons as he shall have determined entitled thereto the interest of the state in such real property so sought to be released.
2. A conveyance so made to any such person who is a parent, child, surviving husband or widow of any such owner of any interest therein immediately prior to the escheat, or the heirs-at-law of any such surviving husband or widow, or the alleged grantee or any person or of any association or body, whether incorporated or not, who or which would have succeeded by devise or otherwise to the title of such person but for a legal incapacity to take or convey the property so escheated shall be without consideration, if the value, at the date of the petition, as determined by the commissioner, of all property of any such owner escheated to the state and not conveyed or released by the state, shall not exceed one hundred thousand dollars, and of the property sought to be released shall not exceed ten thousand dollars, except that any and all expenses incurred by the state in an action to recover the property escheated or in any action pertaining thereto, or otherwise relating to the escheated property shall be paid by such person. Where however, the value of the property sought to be released shall exceed the sum of ten thousand dollars the commissioner may release the same to such person upon the payment of the appraised value in excess of ten thousand dollars and in addition thereto the expenses incurred by the state in an action to recover the property as aforementioned.
3. The release shall contain a brief recital of the determinations required to be made by the commissioner on the hearing of the petition, remonstrance or remonstrances, and of all the terms and conditions on which the release is made.
Section 209. Effect of release on rights of others.
No such release shall impair or affect any right, title, interest or estate in or to the lands thereby released, of any heir-at-law, devisee, grantee, mortgagee or creditor of any person having an interest in the real property released immediately prior to the escheat thereof, or of any person having a lien or incumbrance thereon, through, under or by any person having an interest therein immediately prior to the escheat.