SAG-AFTRA’s Unclaimed Residuals Fund Grows To $76 Million – Up 60% In 6 Years
SAG-AFTRA’s unclaimed residuals fund has grown to roughly $76 million – up 60% from $48 million six years ago. According to the union, the fund now contains 124,000 separate accounts for members and others, living and dead, that it can’t locate. That’s up from 96,000 accounts in 2016.
“The funds may be unclaimed for a variety of reasons including a bad address or as a result of mail returned for other reasons; unresolved estate issues, or the funds may be in trust for an inactive or dissolved loan out corporation,” a spokesperson for the union said. “Most often, residuals may be waiting for a recipient or their agent to formalize a change of address or submit the appropriate paperwork to claim the funds. The union uses a number of tools to locate and get money to those individuals due unclaimed residuals including mail, email and telephone outreach to last known address and telephone number, and published notices in the magazine, on its website and elsewhere.”
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Unclaimed residuals continue to pour into the accounts long after members are dead if their rightful heirs can’t be located, or their estates are involved in legal disputes.
SAG-AFTRA’s In Memoriam page lists 121 members who died last year, and a review by Deadline shows that 70 of their estates are owed unclaimed residuals. They include the heirs of Cicely Tyson, Christopher Plummer, Hal Holbrook, Cloris Leachman, Tanya Roberts, George Segal, Melvin Van Peebles, Jessica Walter, Larry King, Norm Macdonald, Gavin MacLeod, Jackie Mason, Ned Beatty, Olympia Dukakis and Jane Powell. See the full list below.
Betty White is on the list too, but her unclaimed residuals only came in after she died on New Year’s Eve and are expected to be paid in short order upon the identification of her beneficiaries. Others have been on the list for years.
White, though her stay on the list may be short, is one of 13 recipients of the SAG Life Achievement Award who are currently owed unclaimed residuals. They include Morgan Freeman and the estates of Mary Tyler Moore, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, Danny Kaye, Leon Ames, Edgar Bergan, Walter Pidgeon, Stan Laurel, Eddie Cantor and former SAG president Ed Asner, who died last year.
In 2016, when Carol Burnett was named the recipient of the award, Deadline reported that she too was owed unclaimed residuals – which SAG-AFTRA quickly rectified before she received the union’s highest honor.
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But well-known actors, living and dead, who are owed money are just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the accounts are for performers who never made it big in Hollywood – many of whom or their heirs, no doubt, could use the money they’re entitled to, especially during these difficult times.
You can see if you or anyone you know is on the list by clicking here.
The union will hold its 28th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards next month, where tributes will be paid to members who have died over the past year. The estates of 30 of the 55 performers memorialized at last year’s awards show are currently owed unclaimed residuals, including those of Sean Connery, Carl Reiner, Dianna Rigg, Robert Conrad, Dawn Wells, Ja’Net Dubois, Brian Dennehy, Mac Davis, Shirley Knight and Wilfred Brimley.
And the estates of 19 of the 35 performers memorialized at the 2020 awards show are also owed money, including those of Luke Perry, Danny Aiello, Peggy Lipton, Buck Henry, Rip Torn, Rutger Hauer, Michael J. Pollard, Georgia Engel, Kay Ballard, Jan Michael Vincent, Ron Leibman and Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars series.
Nearly half of the estates of SAG’s 19 deceased presidents are owed money too. Besides Asner, they include Ronald Reagan, Patty Duke, John Gavin, Dana Andrews, Leon Ames, Walter Pidgeon, Eddie Cantor and Robert Montgomery.
The estates of many news broadcasting greats are also owed money, including those of Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Max Robinson, Mike Wallace, Hugh Downs, Tim Russert, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, John Chancellor, Jessica Savitch and Jim Lehrer.
The estates of numerous musical legends are also owed, including those of John Lennon, George Harrison, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Jerry Garcia, Luciano Pavarotti, Freddie Mercury, Buddy Holly, Frank Zappa, Etta James, Nat King Cole, and Pete Seeger. Living greats who are owed include Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey and Adele.
The union’s Estates Department works diligently to connect heirs to the money they’re owed, but clearly more needs to be done – and not just by the union – to clear the growing backlog. Friends and family members, as well as the business managers, publicists and agents of deceased performers, need to be more vigilant about checking the unclaimed residuals website so that heirs can contact the union to receive the money they’re due.
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The Estates Department is eager to help, but determining rightful heirs can be difficult, requires documentation, and sometimes involves legal disputes among beneficiaries. Even so, since Deadline began reporting on unclaimed residuals in 2014, the estates of many well-known actors formerly on the list have been paid, including those of Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Leonard Nimoy, David Bowie, Jackie Gleason, Joan Rivers, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini, George Burns and many others.
The union’s unclaimed residuals site notes that “If the union is holding unclaimed residuals, it is because we can’t locate you. If you are the beneficiary and have received residual payments from us in the past, chances are, we are unable to locate you or do not have your current contact information.”
But “unable to locate” is really a misnomer for members who are owed money. SAG-AFTRA has the mailing addresses for all current members, to whom it sends dues statements, union election ballots and its quarterly magazine.
Well-known actors who are owed money include Alec Baldwin, Ron Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessie Eisenberg, Rob Lowe, Robin Wright, Justin Timberlake, Danny Trejo, Simon Pegg, Sean Young, Sally Kirkland, Patrick Dempsey, William Petersen, James Woods, Ozzy Osbourne and BD Wong. One way for the union to clear some of the backlog would be to assign unclaimed residuals that active members are owed towards the annual dues they pay each year.
The unclaimed residuals site also details the steps required to file a claim (see it here).
Some of the money has gone unpaid for years, but the interest doesn’t accrue to the performers or their beneficiaries. It goes into the union’s general fund, defraying the costs of administering the program.
The SAG-AFTRA constitution says that “If the union cannot locate a person or beneficiary owed any monies under this provision within three years of the receipt of the monies due such person, or the person fails to make a claim within such time period, the union may declare the monies forfeited and may use the monies for any allowable purposes. The person or beneficiary may relieve the forfeiture by making a written claim for the monies any time after the three-year time period.”
Many non-members, living and dead, are on the list as well. Donald Trump has unclaimed residuals coming to him, even though he quit the union in a huff last year as SAG-AFTRA was moving to expel him – and then banned him from ever rejoining.
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John F. Kennedy is owed money too, and so are Bill and Hillary Clinton. The estates of former presidents Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson are also owed, and so are the estates of sports legends Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Jesse Owens.
The site doesn’t say how much anyone is owed, and SAG-AFTRA doesn’t give out that information, citing the privacy of its members. It may be a little, or it may be a lot. But there are a lot of members and their heirs who are owed a lot. Sometimes the amount owed is too little to bother with, but those who are owed can’t find out how much they’re owed until they fill out paperwork and send it to the union.
California’s unclaimed property site, on the other hand, dispenses with any notion of privacy; in addition to identifying the people it’s holding money for, it also lists their last known addresses and how much they’re owed, and by doing so gives them enough information to decide whether it’s worth the bother.
Here are the SAG-AFTRA members listed on the union’s In Memoriam page who died last year whose estates are owed unclaimed residuals:
Lois de Banzie
James Michael Tyler
Melvin Van Peebles
Clarence Williams III
Michael K Williams
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