It’s one thing to lose your savings to a stock market crash or even a Ponzi scheme. It’s something completely different to have financial institutions say there’s no record of your long-term investments.
That’s what happened to 98-year-old Curtis Glenn and his now-deceased wife, whose IRAs have disappeared without a trace.
There’s not much of a paper trail because the bank that issued the IRAs was sold. And that bank was sold. And that bank was sold.
It ends with Valley National Bank which, after many mergers, has ownership of the issuing bank’s deposit accounts.
But Valley says it has no record, whatsoever, of Glenn.
“We have the original certificates and they were in a locked metal box until four years ago, when my father took them out to cash them,” said Peter Glenn, Curtis Glenn’s son. “It took almost four years just to find out the trail of custody on the banks because of all the sales of the banks.”
Back in the mid-1980s, Curtis and Joan Glenn purchased several IRAs from Pilgrim State Bank in Cedar Grove.
The investments totaled $10,000: $3,000 in Curtis’ name, and $7,000 in Joan’s name.
The original certificates were placed in a metal box under the couple’s bed, and there they stayed for 22 years.
In 2009, the couple decided to cash the IRAs at the same bank branch where the investments were purchased, Peter Glenn said.
But the bank was no more.
“It had been replaced at that location by a Ramapo bank,” Peter Glenn said. “They talked to the manager of the Ramapo Bank, and he had no idea what happened to Pilgrim State Bank, and he couldn’t cash the IRAs.”
When Joan Glenn died at age 81 in February 2011, Curtis Glenn, a decorated World War II veteran, was named executor of her will. The funds in Joan’s name were to be split four ways among her daughters.
Curtis Glenn enlisted the help of his son Peter to track down the money.
They tried the state’s Unclaimed Property Administration, which is where dormant accounts land. Customers can retrieve “lost” funds there.
But Unclaimed Property had no record.
The Glenns learned that Pilgrim was purchased by Ramapo Bank in 1993. The folks at Ramapo told the pair that Valley National purchased Ramapo’s loans, and TD Bank purchased the deposits.
So they turned to TD Bank which, in 1999, was housed in the old Pilgrim location where the Glenns purchased the IRAs. A TD manager searched the archives, saying TD should have a record, Glenn said.
No record was found.
Not knowing where to turn, Peter Glenn asked Bamboozled for help.
MORE TWISTS AND TURNS
We started with a review of bank mergers and acquisitions, and Glenn’s step-by-step investigation with his dad.
The Glenns were given wrong information.
TD Bank never owned the deposits from the Ramapo sale, and it had nothing to do with the merger. All it did was take over that bank branch location — not assets — so the TD Bank lead was a dead one.
According to public records, Ramapo’s deposits were with Valley National all along.
We reached out to Valley, which put Glenn in touch with a rep who would do the legwork on the case.
“She said that whether we get money depends on what Pilgrim and Ramapo banks did with their paperwork,” he said. “She didn’t sound hopeful because she says that the records of them may have been lost in either merger — Pilgrim to Ramapo, or Ramapo to Valley.”
While she looked, we reached out to Unclaimed Property to make sure there was no record there.
“We did check on it and we found no record of us having received any of these IRA accounts from any of the banks,” said spokesman Bill Quinn. “If we had received property, then we would hold it and it would be recoverable in perpetuity.”
The accounts would have been FDIC-insured, so we checked to see what, if anything, could be done on the FDIC side.
It said it has no record-keeping system of funds on deposit by consumer name at open financial institutions, and FDIC insurance does not cover lost or possibly misplaced funds, a spokesman said.
“Most financial institutions are only required to possess records up to seven years so accounts that have been dormant for a long time will be transferred to the state’s unclaimed property division, again depending on the state law,” the spokesman said.
Been there. Done that.
After several weeks, the Valley rep reported to Glenn that she hand-checked records inherited from Ramapo dating back to 1992, and there was no sign of the accounts.
“She said that it’s possible that Ramapo closed out the accounts since they were dormant for so long. She also said there is a possibility that required minimum distributions may have eaten them up,” he said. “Whatever the cause, there seems to be no existing records, and Valley National doesn’t seem ready to pay out on these IRAs. Where do we go from here?”
To the tax returns. Yes, tax returns.
You see, the financial institutions have suggested it’s possible the Glenns previously cashed the investments, but don’t remember.
Possible, yes. But Curtis Glenn insists they never took money from these accounts — including never having taken required minimum distributions. Plus, the certificates say they will be automatically renewed “unless this certificate is presented for payment,” and Glenn has the original certificates.
Back to the tax returns. If the Glenns had received funds, they also would have received a 1099-R form, indicating taxable income from any withdrawal. That would be attached to their tax returns — evidence they did cash some or all of the funds. If there were no 1099-Rs, that might indicate more conclusively that the money’s still out there somewhere, as Glenn insists it is.
We asked Peter Glenn to dig deep to see if his dad’s old tax returns were still hanging around.
“He said he threw his tax returns away a long time ago because he had paid everything and had no reason to keep them,” Peter Glenn said. “He did say, however, that he doesn’t recall ever getting any 1099 forms from any banks.”
We asked the Division of Taxation if it could retrieve copies of old tax returns. It said he could make the request with a DCC-1 form, but given the age of the returns there’s no guarantee. That would cost $1 per page side.
Glenn could ask for copies from the Internal Revenue Service, but Line 6 of its request form says many returns are on file for seven years, and others “may be available for a longer period of time.” At $57 a pop, Glenn said they can’t afford it.
Unfortunately for Glenn and his deceased wife’s heirs, that appears to be the end of the line.
LESSONS FOR YOU, READERS
While the mystery of the missing IRAs may never be solved, you, dear readers, can learn from the Glenns’ misfortune.
The idea of a safe, lockbox or fireproof box is a terrific one, but you should update records annually and make sure a trusted person has copies of what we fondly call “The When I’m Dead File.” This is a simple list of all of your assets, with institution names and account numbers. Include bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts and pension information. Add to that all your life insurance policies, annuities, any property you own and a list of valuables, whether it’s jewelry, art or anything else.
Include some less obvious but very important information: logins and passwords for online accounts; telephone numbers for services, from your tax preparer to your babysitter; passports; birth, death and marriage certificates; if you’re the family bill-payer, a list of bills you pay and credit cards you own; and more.
When you give this list to your trusted person, also give them copies of your will and estate planning documents, insurance policies and anything else they’d need should you get hit by a bus.
To check sale records of a financial institution in New Jersey, visit the Department of Banking and Insurance website.
If you’re having trouble contacting a financial institutions, try the FDIC’s Consumer Response Center.
Check with the state’s Unclaimed Property Administration here, and research lost assets in other states at the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators web site. And if a company offers to help you find unclaimed assets for a fee, say no. Every state offers this service for free.