Illinois Turns Me Libertarian

My dad, as you know, is/was a Methodist minster (Did I tell you guys he’s taking a part-time church? I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, clearly, someone in that house needs something to do. On the other hand, I wonder if we can just set aside this bullshit “we’re moving to Georgia plan” instead of having to pretend like it’s still real. On the third hand, I hope he’s not going back to work because they need the money. But on the fourth hand, clearly, someone in that house needs something to do.) and so we all have accounts at the United Methodist Ministries Credit Union in Illinois.

We’ve had those accounts since we were little. So, back then, I mean, when I was a minor, I probably saved like $350 in there. And then I got a couple of car loans through them and a personal loan to go to publishing school and I paid them all off years and years ago. That $350 bucks has just sat in there collecting interest or dividends or both or whatever.

Today I got a letter from the Credit Union saying that, since I hadn’t had any activity on my account in five years, the state of Illinois believes it has the legal right to take my money. So, I need to deposit something, withdraw something, or close the account. I haven’t decided which of the three I will do, but what the fuck? The credit union knows me. They clearly know how to reach me. Hell, they probably have my dad on speed dial, all the shit my brothers have pulled with them over the years. I’ve not disappeared.

But if I leave my money just sitting in an account accumulating interest and nothing else, the state of Illinois thinks that they get it? I can’t be a shitty, but frugal, saver without Illinois deciding to confiscate my money?

What bullshit.

24 thoughts on “Illinois Turns Me Libertarian

  1. I have been reading your blog for a while and have never commented before. I am loving your no nonsense style and (very) sensible approach to most subjects including this one. Thanks for a refreshing glass of cold common sense everyday. Wish I had more time to comment but often, you have said it all and I just need a “like” button to click!

  2. Its called escheat – it goes back hundreds of years to the old english feudal system where any property owner that died without an heir, their property reverted to the crown. its a relatively recent phenonmenon with bank accounts, tho. i doubt its legality, but i don’t know if its ever been challenged, either. this is how low our state has sunk, they are trying to steal your babysitting money


  3. States that are running in the red but don’t want to raise taxes enforce escheat vigorously as a means of beating the bushes for revenue. The practice has been legal since 1872, so the constitutional question of whether a state can do it legally is well-settled. However, the so-called “dormancy period” — which had been between seven and thirty years — has been legislatively shrunk at the urging of the banking industry and with the enthusiastic assent of state legislatures since the 1980s deregulation period. Now, after a few years, they send a note, wait a bit, and take your money. (In my head, that last sentence is rapped by MIA.) It’s yet to be decided whether it’s reasonable to presume that any asset that hasn’t been massaged in 36 months qualifies for seizure. The US Supreme Court seemed to leave that window open for dispute in Provident v Malone in 1911, reflecting that a brief dormancy might make them change their minds about the state’s right to “abandoned” assets. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that, though –both state and fed courts have made it an uphill road for bank customers to protect their assets. You’d think the Takings Clause would come into play, but courts also have proven pretty unsympathetic over the years to that approach.

  4. But, but, butbutbutbut … but estates in the middle ages escheated to the crown because the entire country theoretically belonged to the crown, and jurisdiction and usufruct were given to landholders only contingently, in exchange for taxes and military service. Land could not be unowned, so in default of other owners it reverted back. What are the theoretical grounds for escheat of dormant credit union accounts? I mean, with a credit union I guess I could understand if dormant accounts escheated to the credit union itself, but not further than that.

  5. Bridgett,

    I don’t think the ‘takings clause’ applies. The guiding principle of the ‘takings clause’ involves an obligation for the state to fairly compensate an individual for the state’s confiscation of the individual’s property. It is a specific protection against the abuse of eminent domain. The whole idea is that the state must recognize the property rights of the individual even when eminent domain is necessary.

    What Illinois is doing to Aunt B. is simply theft. By applying an administrative change, the state hopes to steal her property under the guise that she has ‘abandoned’ it. The implications of this are, if anything, scarier than those of the Kelo decision and some of the efforts to allow government to make property rights meaningless through environmental regulations.

  6. nm, the rationales are thus: states have assumed escheat because in the absence of the Crown, they represent the sovereign right and interest of the people — they are us and are the appropriate custodians of assets which have no other owner when heirs cannot be located. Alternately, one can argue that states have the right to determine succession or that it falls in their police powers.

  7. But how is “unowned” equivalent to “dormant” when the owner of an asset is so demonstrably alive? I understand that the state is the contemporary equivalent of the crown. I just don’t understand how “not making deposits and withdrawals on this account” can be equated to “dead and without traceable heirs-in-law.”

  8. That’s the part that burns me. I mean, when I called, I said, “This is Betsy and I hear Illinois wants to steal my babysitting money” and she knew it was me! I’m literally the only Betsy on their list. I didn’t even have to tell her my last name.

    I am clearly not dead, clearly traceable, and the credit union is small enough that, even though I haven’t done anything with them in the last five years, they know me.

    And the state still thinks it has legal cover to try to steal my money? It’s outrageous.

    And I agree with nm. I assumed, with a credit union, if you disappeared and no heirs could be found, the money just got rolled back into the credit union. But the gal told me that, no, if they know for certain I’m dead, the money goes to my estate.

    So, that makes me think that this isn’t about the state recouping money that doesn’t “belong” to anyone anymore.

    This is indeed about getting its grubby hands on money the state has a reasonable expectation belongs to a living person.

  9. I had the exact problem with my babysitting money left in an account in New Hampshire. What really annoyed me was that the official announcement came in a white envelope with a cut out window and no identification as my bank in the return address, just a PO box. If they’d deliberately tried to make it look like junk mail I was going to throw away, they couldn’t have done a better job.

  10. nm, because there’s a growing legal presumption that if you aren’t actively managing your money — that is, doing things that allow a largely deregulated banking industry to charge you a fee when you do it — that you aren’t a fit steward of your money. Saving it is no longer good enough, especially if it’s what appears to them a small sum. That’s what happens when you let the banking lobby write your laws.

  11. Pingback: SayUncle » Turning libertarian

  12. Funny, years ago I had the same thing happen to an account I had as a kid in New Hampshire. Hadn’t touched the account in three years (I had gone to college). Went to go take the money out … gone. Three hundred dollars. No notification, either. I needed the money for books.

  13. Let me see if I’ve got this straight… You’ve just realized that there’s an entire class of people who view you the same way a vampire bat views a cow’s ear, and you THINK you might be a libertarian?

    Clearly, you are not twelve years old, and too young to understand how things work, so what… are you a fucking retard?

  14. Yes, yes, I am a fucking retard. How did you ever figure it out, you brilliant genius, you?

    This is honestly something I don’t get about the internet.

    Say Uncle’s link to me contained no indication he thought I was a dumbass worthy of abuse. So, most normal people, when someone they respect sends them to a new person, treat that person with a little respect. Not for my sake. But for the sake of goodwill with the person they respect, in this case, Say Uncle.

    But there’s always some jackass who’s like “Oh, my god! Someone is saying something!!!! I better insult them right away!!!”

    What do you think is going to come of that?

    Do you like it when women laugh at you? Is that why you do this?

    Because, if so, it worked.

    Or do you imagine some weird scenario in which you get to go back and brag to Say Uncle about putting me in my place? Do you imagine he’s proud when his readers go someplace he’s linked and show their asses?

    I mean, I get why you don’t give a shit what I think. But aren’t you concerned you might be embarrassing him?

  15. Wow. For the record, Unk sent me here, and I don’t think you’re retarded. Possibly wrong (IMESHO) about some things (though not this one), but that ailment seems to be going around a lot and nobody’s completely immune.

  16. Roberta, for the record, that’s why I love when Say Uncle links to me. I know the overlap on what he and y’all think and what I think is very slim, but man, I learn a shit ton from you and ALWAYS come away with a lot to think about. I know it’s nerdy, but I find that really exciting.

    There’s always some idiot. What can you do?

  17. There are two types of methodists:
    When you ask “So, what is the method?” The first kind gives you a blank stare, and when you explain the question, thinks you are a jerk.
    The second kind gets excited that you would be interested, and starts explaining.

    If you want to really get upset, check your state’s policy on gift card. Here, you have 6 months to use a gift card before the retailer is forced to give the money to the govt.

  18. “There’s always some idiot. What can you do?”

    Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as needed. As a guy I used to work for said: “Every one has a purpose. Even if it is only to serve as a bad example.” Mike appears to be applying for that position.

    Mike, and anybody whose thinking aligns with his, might do well to read xkcd’s 10000 comic and think seriously about what it means.

    As to the topic of the post — I agree: What bullshit.

  19. Maybe you should look at it as them doing you a favor. The kindly state of Illinois knows that inflation outstrips interest so you’re actually losing money. So they threaten to take it just so you….. Okay, I got nothing….

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