About Investigators (For Consumers)
Investigators (sometimes referred to as Asset Locators or Heir Finders) are individuals or companies that offer to file claims for unclaimed property for the apparent owner or their heirs for a fee. If an owner chooses to use an investigator/heir finder, a full disclosure contract between the owner and the investigator specifying where the property is coming from must be signed. The disclosure contract is an agreement between the owner and the investigator. The investigator may have an enforceable right of payment from the owner for the amount specified in the contract.
It is against the law for an investigator to charge a fee greater than 10% of the value of the property that is returned to you. The only exception are fees charged for County Probated Estates where there is no limit on what they can charge. Fees should cover any and all services connected with returning property to an owner. (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1582)
Consumer protection agencies advise that legitimate businesses do not expect payment until the property is returned to the owner and owners should be suspicious if an Investigator asks for money before the owner receives the property or if the fee is not based on a percentage of the value of the property to be returned to the owner.
For property reported to the State of California, owners are NOT required to use an Investigator to file a claim.
- An owner of property may file a claim for his/her property at any time.
- Owners of Unclaimed Property can conduct a property search for free on our Web site.
An Investigator may not charge a fee greater than ten percent (10%) of the value of the property returned to the owner(s).
- Fees should cover any and all services connected with returning property to an owner.
- An owner should be suspicious if an Investigator asks for money before the owner receives the property or if the fee is not based on a percentage of the value of the property to be returned to the owner.
- The only exception to the limit on the fees an Investigator can charge is for County Probated Estates. In this case there is no legal limit.
- Investigators are not allowed to contract with a property owner to help the owner recover unclaimed property once a business has notified the State Controller’s Office that the property will be transferred to the state for safekeeping. A property owner may reactivate the account or recover the property free of charge from the business.
Please note: If we receive a claim for property from both you and an Investigator, your property will be returned to you, if we determine you are the rightful owner, unless we have already acted on the claim filed by the Investigator. Returning your property, does not mean that we have taken a position on the validity of the contract or whether the investigator has a right to a fee for any services rendered. That matter is between you and the Investigator.
For more information about Investigators visit our Frequently Asked Questions