WSJ Article on "Inactivity" Standard for Brokerage Accounts

Today's Wall Street Journal has a good summary article (link at bottom) about the controversy surrounding the states' move to using an "inactivity" standard for brokerage accounts.

In many states, brokerage and other securities accounts are subject to abandonment on a "returned mail" basis, meaning that, regardless of owner activity, the dormancy period for such accounts did not begin to run unless the holder started receiving account statements or other correspondence returned as undeliverable by the post office. And with good reason: for years, a significant amount of financial press and advice has advocated a "buy and hold" strategy, which specifically contemplates significant periods of little to no activity by the account owner.

In their never ending quest to bring more funds under state control, however, the states have not remained dormant on the "returned mail" standard. Instead, Delaware and other states are trying to move to a standard based upon "activity.". Under this standard, an account will be deemed abandoned if the customer does not engage in a transaction during the 3 to 5 year dormancy period. Accordingly, investors using a buy-and-hold strategy should make sure to correspond frequently with her brokerage firms If they don't, they might find out that although they are doing the buying, the state is doing the holding.

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