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Babar the Elephant, the Old Lady and Unclaimed Property

An acquaintance told us an interesting story. She grew up in the suburbs in a solidly middle class family. She had older and younger siblings, and she knew that her parents worked hard to make sure they were all well dressed, well fed and indulged to a point just this side of spoiled.

She realized at a young age, however, that she had champagne taste on a prosecco budget. The only way she would have the lifestyle she deserved -- and, of course, that she wanted for her family -- required a generous benefactor. She spent hours sitting in the front yard and watching the cars go by. Any day a limousine would stop, she thought, and the kindly Old Lady in the Babar books would step out and offer her a lifetime of shopping and pastries.

The Babar book that made such an impression on her wasn't special in any way, really, but she cherished it. When her parents were cleaning out the house to move to a retirement community, she claimed Babar for her own. She kept the book with her for years.

Fast forward a few decades, and she is doing well enough to own some valuable jewelry. She has nowhere to wear any of it, but she loves it. Her life is  active but not fancy, and workplace casual had taken the place of dinner jackets. The jewelry was all a little too valuable to have around the house, so she decided to rent a safe deposit box.

A couple of days before she was scheduled to visit the bank, she was going through all the children's books her family had accumulated and no longer needed. Most of them would go to a library book sale. Some were worth keeping for grandchildren.

Not Babar. This book would go into the safe deposit box. It may not have the cash value that the jewelry has, but it has tremendous sentimental value. So off to the bank it went.

At some point, it hit her just how funny it would be for someone to come across the contents of that box. That was when she wondered out loud just what would happen to Babar if something happened to her, if the safe deposit box were forgotten.

It just happens that the state of California has a plan for it -- a plan that we will explain in our next post.

Source: California State Controller's Office, Unclaimed Property Program FAQs, accessed March 6, 2015

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