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How to find unclaimed money or missing assets you’re due
State governments and treasuries are holding billions of dollars that just might be yours.
About one in 10 people have unclaimed, missing or forgotten assets waiting for them, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Each state has a system to reunite unclaimed property with its rightful owners. And you can search these government databases for free.
What is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property is cash and other assets a financial institution or company holds and considers abandoned by the owner after a year or longer. After the state’s designated period of inactivity or no contact from the owner, the property is turned over to state treasurers and other officials.
Types of unclaimed property include:
- Account overpayments
- Checking or savings balances
- Credit unions deposits
- Dividends or payroll checks
- FHA-insured mortgage refunds
- Life insurance policies and payments
- Royalty payments
- Tax and other refunds
- Utility and other security deposits
How to file a request for unclaimed property
Search for and reclaim property for free in most states, starting with unclaimed property sites:
- Go to your state’s unclaimed property site. If you’ve lived in multiple areas, check each state’s site too.
- Enter your last name and search for unclaimed property or cash. If you’re married, search your maiden name as well.
- Confirm your identity. Verify your name, address and other identifying information to prove your ownership.
- File a claim. Each state has its own process but generally allows you to initiate a claim online and then mail in a completed, notarized claim form, if needed.
- Submit documentation. Most states require:
- A signed and notarized paper claim form.
- A copy of your driver’s license.
- A copy of your Social Security card.
- Proof of address to show the property is yours.
How can I recover someone else’s unclaimed property?
In rare circumstances, it’s possible to claim property that involve loved ones or businesses you might have co-owned.
Expect to provide additional personal, financial and other details that depend on the ownership situation:
- Property on behalf of a minor. You may need to provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate when attempting to claim property on behalf of a minor.
- Property on behalf of a deceased relative. Submit a copy of the property owner’s death certificate, will or trust to claim the property.
- Property on behalf of an estate. Court-appointed estate representatives can submit a claim with the owner’s Social Security number and other identifying details.
- Property on behalf of a business owner. Typically, proof of company incorporation or a DBA showing ownership is needed to establish ownership.
How to find unclaimed money by state
In addition to hosting designated unclaimed property websites, most states participate in multistate databases that house collective records.
Tips for finding unclaimed money
Follow these pointers to help you track down your unclaimed property:
- Keep a list of your accounts and assets. A list can help you keep tabs on your property to avoid the chance for states to take over an inactive account. It’s also a handy overview for any heirs to know what to look for when you die.
- Extend your search across states. It’s good to start with the states you’ve lived in, but it doesn’t hurt to enter your info in all 50 states and DC. Sometimes unclaimed money is held in the state in which a creditor or account is based, rather than where you lived.
- Think about unclaimed money belonging to deceased relatives. It might take special keywords to unearth money owed to your relatives if they’re not alive. Experts say to enter such terms as “payable on death,” “beneficiary” or “estate of” in the last name field before searching.
Where else can I find unclaimed property?
Search a range of official databases to find unclaimed tax refunds, bonds, pension balances and more:
- Internal Revenue Service. Contact the IRS for your undelivered or unclaimed refund.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Find unclaimed deposits if your banking institution has ceased operating.
- Treasury Direct. Track down matured savings bonds.
- National Credit Union Administration. Sniff out unclaimed deposits when a credit union is liquidated.
- HUD. You might be eligible for a mortgage refund if you’ve had an FHA-insured mortgage.
- Department of Labor. The DOL might have your unpaid wages if your employer broke labor laws.
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Take a look if the PBGC has your pension if your previous employer went out of business or ended your defined benefit pension plan.
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Check the NAIC or your state’s insurance department website to find out if there’s an unclaimed life insurance payout with your name on it.
How much does filing to recover unclaimed money cost?
It’s free to search and initiate a claim online. Most states also require you to mail in a signed and notarized claim form, along with your supporting documents. A notary public may charge a fee for this service, which will likely run about $5 to $10 per signature, though your bank or a public library might do it for free.
Companies that call themselves finders or locators might advertise a finder’s fee to search for unclaimed money on your behalf. While the businesses are legitimate, the wide range of free sites means you can do it yourself for free.
Also be wary of scammers claiming to be from the government and offering to send you unclaimed money for a price. Unlike legitimate locators, they often don’t require a signed contract and may try to quickly get money or personal information up front before running off with it.
The government holds billions of dollars in unclaimed assets, with states returning an estimated $3 billion in assets and property to their rightful owners annually, according to industry associations.
But you don’t need to hire a firm to help you track down what’s yours: It takes minutes to search official databases and file a claim to recover money — for free.
Frequently asked questions
How can I recover unclaimed, missing or forgotten property from deceased relatives?
Start by contacting the agency in charge of unclaimed property in your state. To file a claim on behalf of a deceased relative, you’ll typically need their Social Security number and other identifying information, including documentation of your relationship or right as legal heir.
How does the Department of Treasury cover foreign unclaimed money?
Yes, but claims first must be approved as valid through the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. If the FCSC decides a claim is valid, the Department of Treasury pays the claim.
What happens to my claim if I have outstanding debt?
In most cases, the state will process your claim, but a government agency could intercept the funds to pay any debts you owe. If so, your check stub should include contact information for the agency that diverted your money.
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