How to Find Unclaimed Property and Free Money

Before you start thinking there might be a piece of land or a house out there that you forgot you owned, let’s define “property”in terms of locating unclaimed property. Unclaimed property is considered an account held by a financial institution or company that has had no activity generated nor any contact with the owner for a year or more. This could be contents of a safe deposit box, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, unclaimed wages and uncashed checks, CD’s, trusts, utility deposits and the like. There are billions of dollars of unclaimed property being held in this country by states on behalf of the owners.

How Does Property Get Lost?

You might be wondering how unclaimed property gets lost in the first place. Financial institutions generally do not forward mail, so if you move, and forget to notify your bank, you won’t get notices and may forget about your account – especially if it’s just a CD or small savings account. Some funds, people don’t even realize they have, like deposits paid for utilities that don’t get returned when you close your account. Poor record keeping also plays a part in forgetting about money and accounts, such as not writing down a safe deposit box number.

Where Does the Unclaimed Money Go?

Once a financial institution can not locate an owner of an account or deposit box, the funds are turned over to the state where the account owner resided at the time the account was open. Each state has an office of unclaimed funds. The treasurer and officers work to find the owners of accounts/funds and are regulated by rules set by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The rules are in place to protect the account owner. Money never reverts back to the bank or corporation that originally held the funds. States will hold onto the unclaimed funds indefinitely and claims for the funds can be made at any time, even by heirs.

How Do You Claim Funds?

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) suggests using a computer and searching or your state database, or the database of any state where you have lived. If you have a common name the more detail you can provide, the better. If one does not have access to a computer, you can contact your state unclaimed property office. Once you’ve located unclaimed funds you can begin the claim process. You must first file a claim and secondly be able to prove your identity. Once a claim is successfully filed, funds can be returned anywhere from 2 to 14 weeks.

If I Don’t Find Anything Does that Mean I Have No Unclaimed Funds?

Databases are updated and maintained regularly. Remember, property has to go for one year without any contact from the owner before it is considered unclaimed. It’s always a good idea to check back periodically to see if any funds have turned up in your name. The NAUPA suggests checking back annually once you have done an initial search for unclaimed funds.  You never know when you might get some free money:)

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