What should I do if the state of New York claimed an uncashed check over 10 years old where most of the payees went out of business and the ones still in business cannot go back that far to query the check?

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In the case of New York, the law says: "The expiration of any period of time specified by law, during which an action or proceeding may be commenced or enforced to secure payment of a claim for money or recovery of property, shall not prevent any such money or property from being deemed abandoned property, nor affect any duty to file a report required by this chapter or to pay or deliver to the state comptroller any such abandoned property; and shall not serve as a defense in any action or proceeding by or on behalf of the state comptroller to compel the filing of any report or the payment or delivery of any abandoned property required by this chapter or to enforce or collect any penalty provided by this chapter. (see http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi - look under general provisions).

States are often willing to work with companies that want to come into compliance. On the other hand, if an audit is already underway, it may be too late to negotiate limits to the scope of the audit. Certainly your position is not strong when you are being audited. You might want to contact Cityvest, Keane, UPRR, or another unclaimed property specialist (see the directory), or J. Brooke Spottswood, a lawyer specializing in unclaimed property who is a frequent speaker and writer on the subject (http://www.unclaimedpropertylaw.com).

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