Monday, September 22, 2014

California Amends Definition of “Owner” to Give Charities Greater Access to Unclaimed Funds

On September 15, California Assembly Bill 1712 became law.

This legislation expands the definition of an "owner" under the Act authorized to make a claim for unclaimed property in the Controller's possession.  In particular, the definition of "owner" was amended to add "a nonprofit civic, charitable, or educational organization that granted a charter, sponsorship, or approval for the existence of the organization that had the legal right to the property prior to its escheat but that has dissolved or is no longer in existence, if the charter, sponsorship, approval, organization bylaws, or other governing documents provide that unclaimed or surplus property shall be conveyed to the granting organization upon dissolution or cessation to exist as a distinct legal entity." 

In other words, if the California Controller's office is holding unclaimed property for the American [Charity] Association - LA Chapter, and that entity is dissolved or no longer exists, the property can be claimed by the nationwide American [Charity] Association.
According to a report on the bill by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, the bill arose from the acknowledgment that "there is a large amount of unclaimed property  . . . that is owned by nonprofit chapters or affiliates that have dissolved."  By amending the definition of owner to include the parent or sponsoring entity of the dissolved organization, the bill's sponsors intend to "retrun [the funds] to the charitable sector where it can once again benefit the community."

While the legislation is certainly laudable, insofar as it requires that the organizational documents of the dissolved entity to provide that unclaimed property will pass to the parent entity, it is unclear what impact it will have on the millions of dollars already in the Controller's possession.

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