Thursday, we got something in the mail from the state controller's office, addressed to the previous owner, a woman who was in her 90s, living a convalescent home, when we bought the house 6 years ago this month. We opened the letter to make sure it wasn't something about the property that would matter to us.
It's not. It's a notice that some account is going to be turned over to the state later this year if they don't hear from her. At first glance, I thought it was about $39k, so I figured I'd call the realtor and see if she knew how to get in touch with him. This was easy; until we decided to put an offer on the house, she was also our realtor, and she has been the buyer's realtor for every property anyone in my family as bought in the last 25 years.
She said she'd do some searching; the family was actually represented by the second son and she had a fax that seemed to have been his. She told me his name and said she put out some feelers and to let her know if I found anything. I was going to leave it at that until I took a closer look at the letter. It turns out that it's not 39k dollars, it's 39k shares of Franklin CA tax-free income, a mutual fund worth $7 a share. If you don't feel like doing the math yourself, 30k shares would be 210,000 and 40k shares would be 280,000. Dollars.
I typed the name into Zaba Search, though I don't really think much of that organization, based on some of what they planned to do and how they planned to do it. They were going to allow anyone to write anything about anyone and have almost no way for people to refute the statements or find out who wrote it. Haven't paid much attention to find out whether they did.
The search turned up a variety of people with the name, something like 54 in the state, one of whom appeared to live in the Bay Area and be the right general age (71). I clicked on one of the links, to intellius.com, and got back an initial list of names. One of them happened to show that the first name is an abbreviation (Leo), and the 71 year-old I was looking at is named Leonard and happens to have lived in Berkeley.
I paid $7.90 to get a list of 14 of these Leonards, starting with that one. I probably could have stuck with the $2.95 version but figured I might as well splurge for the extra $5 to see if they had any address or phone number confirmation. I called the phone number (same area code and prefix of the fax number Gaby gave me) and spoke to the woman who answered.
I tried to establish some credibility by giving her my whole name (and by calling on my unblocked cell phone) and telling her that I'd bought my house in Berkeley from him. She asked me if it was a certain address, which is next door, so I corrected her. That seemed to do it. Leo was out at the time, but she's going to have him call back and was very appreciative - I think she thanked me about 6 times when we were getting off the phone, and I didn't even tell her how much it was worth. I did mention that it seemed as if it was a fair amount of money.