On June 16, 1924, Thomas Lazarick, née Lazarczuk, a 35-year-old Ukrainian immigrant who ran a dry goods store in Camden, NJ, purchased “infant whole life insurance” on his 11-month-old fifth child named Leonard.
The policy cost 5 cents per week. The death benefit was $50 to $200, depending on age. It was reissued in 1933.
Leonard W. Lazarick Sr. survived his childhood. He survived numerous attempts by the Japanese military to kill him in the Philippines and Okinawa (three Purple Hearts). He survived cancerous bladder polyps that he thought would kill him in his 70s, but finally at 97 on November 29, 2020, COVID-19 brought him in.
What happened to that life insurance policy? The last recorded interaction with Metropolitan Life Insurance was a letter in 1979.
After several phone calls, it turned out that MetLife had turned over the policy to the State of New Jersey’s Unclaimed Property Division in 2005. Not only was the policy worth $363.61, but there were shares of worth twice as much when MetLife became a public company.
Why New Jersey? My father was born in Camden, but lived in Pennsylvania for his last 75 years, where he passed away. The last address MetLife put on the police was on Boxwood Lane in Cinnaminson, NJ, where her older sister lived and where her father Thomas Lazarick, who bought the police, lived briefly in his final days in 1972.
There was a lot of back and forth online – the Unclaimed Property Division’s call center was offline due to the pandemic so you couldn’t talk to a person. Finally, a phone call to MetLife brought me to Cathy Smith in Florida who emailed me their policy brief for Leonard Lazarick at the address where he never lived in Cinnaminson, NJ Case Solved , check issued for $1,200.43.
Maryland Unclaimed Property
Like many states, Maryland has a similar agency for unclaimed assets, headed by Comptroller Peter Franchot.
According to Franchot’s office, the agency has more than 1.1 million accounts worth more than $1.9 billion in unclaimed property. Individuals and businesses can search the online database for unclaimed property.
This year’s 140-page unclaimed property insert, required by law, will be published in more than 25 newspapers for a total of 400,000 copies distributed statewide. It lists 69,310 accounts worth more than $59.3 million.
In years past, Franchot has attempted to eliminate the newspaper insert, now that most residents can search online. But the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association successfully lobbied the legislature to keep the insert, so Franchot gave up trying to stop publishing it. Instead, he uses it to promote himself and his office. (Disclosure: I am currently vice president of the press association, but lobbying for the insert predated my tenure on the board.)
Since 2007, the Maryland Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $909 million in unclaimed property to its rightful owners.
For details on the type of bank accounts, stocks and state-owned insurance policies and how to claim them, discover this Franchot press release published on Wednesday.