How to Find Unclaimed Property and Money

Military personnel frequently move and sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. For example, you may switch banks or credit unions when you PCS and forget to close out an account. You may have been due to receive a tax refund, security deposit, utilities deposit, or a dependent may PCS in the middle of a pay period and not receive their final paycheck. If it’s only a few hours, they may not even notice they didn’t receive it. But that money doesn’t just disappear – it gets turned into the state where it awaits to be claimed.

Each year there are millions of dollars worth of unclaimed property and money turned over to states across the nation.  Individuals who have rights to this wealth of assets may not even know they are the rightful owners of this unclaimed property.  It is estimated that one in eight American’s could be the owners of the estimated 32 billion dollars currently held in states across the country.  Here we look at some of the assets that are being held and how you can find out if you are entitled to any of this unclaimed property.

How to Find Unclaimed Property and Money

Types of unclaimed property

Sometimes referred to as abandoned property, unclaimed property is considered as any assets held in financial institutions that have no activity or contact with the rightful owner for a period of one year or longer.  The following list is an example of common property that makes up the bulk of the assets currently being held by state treasurers and other agencies.

  • Pay checks
  • Real estate (land and homes)
  • Gift certificates
  • Cash
  • Bonds
  • Jewelry
  • Coins
  • Inheritances
  • Remaining balance in checking and savings accounts

Are you entitled to some of this wealth?

Anyone can find out if they are the rightful owners of unclaimed property by doing a little bit of research.  Since companies are required to send unclaimed property to the last known state of residency listed for the owner, your search can begin in the state in which you currently live and other states where you have resided throughout your lifetime.  To make this search quick and easy, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) recommends searching the website, MissingMoney.com.  This website has a collective database of unclaimed property reported by individual states.  While each state maintains its own database, most also list unclaimed assets on the Missing Money website to make it easier for individuals to search in one central location.

Be wary of scams

Searching for unclaimed property using these resources is free. It does not have to cost you a penny.  Unfortunately there are many companies that offer to do the legwork for you, for a fee.  It is important to note that paying a company or business to do the search for you will not turn up any property that you would not have been able to locate on your own for free.  Companies called “finders” or “locators” are often hired by the business trying to locate the rightful owner.  These companies may track down the owner of unclaimed property and notify them of property which they are entitled to claim.  This is usually accompanied by a fee (normally 10 percent).  While most of these companies are legitimate, it is imperative individuals contact the unclaimed property office in their state to confirm they are dealing with a legitimate firm.





Prevent unclaimed property

Remember, in many cases property is considered abandoned after one year of no contact. It is important to remember to keep track of where your assets are currently held – a good way to do this is to consolidate financial accounts.  When you move, get married or have other major changes that result in little or no activity on a financial account, make a point to contact the institution to prevent that property from being turned over to the state. In some cases, your property can be seized by the state if it is not claimed.




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Date published: November 17, 2010.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years in the USAF and also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google

Comments

  1. Just a few additional details since this is my area of expertise … Not all states participate on the missingmoney.com site. Click on the map of the US on the missingmoney home page. It will take you to a color-coded map. Green states have their info on the site. Blue do not. Yellow are uploading their data. I get more hits by going to the individual states because very new and very old listings are not on missingmoney.
    If the address for the owner is unknown, it may end up in a state you never lived in. Escheat (the process of the money going to the state) priority rules state (as mentioned in the article) that the money goes to the state of the owner’s last known address. If the address is unknown, then it gets turned over to the state in which the holder of the money is incorporated.
    Your readers can get a free download of the first chapter of my book by going to my website. The chapter is “Finder’s Fees … To Pay or Not to Pay.” There are lots of things to know to protect yourself and know your rights!
    Since this is a military site, here’s something I mentioned in the book relevant to you: Those eligible for retroactive stop loss pay need to submit a claim by Dec. 3, 2010. Since that deadline is approaching, I wanted to mention it.
    I hope this was useful information to you.

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