Zero Down Home Loan Eligibility

How to Find Unclaimed Property and Money

Billions of dollars worth of money & property sit unclaimed in state vaults. Find out how to search these reserves for free to find missing money.
Advertising Disclosure.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

default image

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, utility 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, millions of dollars worth of unclaimed property and money are turned over to states across the nation.  Individuals with rights to this wealth of assets may not even know they are the rightful owners of this unclaimed property.  One in eight Americans 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 being held and how you can determine 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 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.

  • Paychecks
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • CDs or trust funds
  • Real estate (land and homes)
  • Gift certificates
  • Cash
  • Jewelry
  • Coins
  • Inheritances
  • Utility deposits
  • Escrow accounts
  • and more

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 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 where 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 database, most also list unclaimed assets on the Missing Money website to make it easier for individuals to search in one central location.

Finding and Claiming Missing Money & Property

When the employee does not pick up paychecks, the business turns them over to the state as unclaimed. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators assists states in distributing these unclaimed paychecks and other unclaimed properties.

Claiming money is pretty simple if you find a name and address match. All you’ll have to do is fill out a simple form. It just requires basic information about whichever state the money is sitting in.

You’ll have to print out a claim form, fill it out, and then mail it. Each state has slightly different requirements for claiming money, but generally, it’s fairly easy. Each state is different. Some state governments are going to be quicker than others.

To claim the money, you must prove you have lived at the address listed on the money. Many people don’t have files from years ago proving you lived there. What do you do if you can’t prove you lived at the address? Is the money gone for good? Probably not.

If you have no way of proving you lived there, all you have to do is attach a letter to the claim form. After this, they will contact you with the next steps of getting the money. Once again, each state will have different kinds of forms to complete.

Similarly, if the person on the claim has passed away, you can still claim the money if you’re the rightful heir. You’ll have to go through a similar process. You will need to provide some documentation, like a death certificate.

How to prevent abandoned property

Remember, in many cases, the property is considered abandoned after one year of no contact. It is important to track 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, the state can seize your property if it is not claimed.

To prevent having your assets classified as unclaimed or abandoned property, you need to be in contact with your account holder at least once a year (or less often, depending on your state). The good news is that contacting the company once will cover multiple accounts.

Escheatment laws also apply to joint accounts and minors, so performing regular activity for those accounts is best.

Here are some tips on how to avoid having your assets classified as abandoned:

  • Make a list of all your accounts, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, brokerage and investment accounts, insurance policies, trusts, safe deposit boxes, and other accounts, and keep it in a safe place. This will help you stay organized and remember which accounts remain active.
  • Login to any online account at least once a year.
  • Make at least one balance inquiry, deposit, or withdrawal each year for each bank or brokerage account.
  • Cash or deposit checks when you receive them (checks are usually only good for 6 months).
  • Visit your safe deposit box at least once a year.
  • Notify any holder of funds of an address change or a name change.
  • Use gift cards, traveler’s checks, and gift certificates promptly (some gift cards expire or will not be honored when companies are in financial trouble).

Be wary of scams

Searching for unclaimed property using these resources is free. It does not have to cost you a penny.  Unfortunately, many companies offer to do the legwork for you for a fee.  It is important to note that paying a company or business to search for you will not turn up any property you would not have been able to locate on your own for free.

Companies called “finders” or “locators” are often hired by businesses trying to locate the rightful owner.  These companies may track down the owner of unclaimed property and notify them of property that they are entitled to claim.  This is usually accompanied by a fee (normally 10 percent).  While most of these companies are legitimate, individuals must contact the unclaimed property office in their state to confirm they are dealing with a legitimate firm.


Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

Posted In:

About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

Reader Interactions

Comments

    Leave A Comment:

    Comments:

    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Mary Pitman says

    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.

The Military Wallet is a property of Three Creeks Media. Neither The Military Wallet nor Three Creeks Media are associated with or endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. The content on The Military Wallet is produced by Three Creeks Media, its partners, affiliates and contractors, any opinions or statements on The Military Wallet should not be attributed to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Defense or any governmental entity. If you have questions about Veteran programs offered through or by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at va.gov. The content offered on The Military Wallet is for general informational purposes only and may not be relevant to any consumer’s specific situation, this content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If you have questions of a specific nature consider consulting a financial professional, accountant or attorney to discuss. References to third-party products, rates and offers may change without notice.

Advertising Notice: The Military Wallet and Three Creeks Media, its parent and affiliate companies, may receive compensation through advertising placements on The Military Wallet; For any rankings or lists on this site, The Military Wallet may receive compensation from the companies being ranked and this compensation may affect how, where and in what order products and companies appear in the rankings and lists. If a ranking or list has a company noted to be a “partner” the indicated company is a corporate affiliate of The Military Wallet. No tables, rankings or lists are fully comprehensive and do not include all companies or available products.

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content on The Military Wallet may include opinions. Any opinions are those of the author alone, and not those of an advertiser to the site nor of  The Military Wallet.