How would you feel if you found out your state owes you money?
It’s a pretty good feeling to realize that you may just happen to have money out there that you’re unaware of — in your name — at the State Controller’s or Treasurer’s Office — even more so in these tough economic times when money is so tight and most of us are trying to be so frugal.
There are actually quite a few people out there who do have money – with their name on it – listed, for example, on the California State Controller’s Office Web site under the “unclaimed property” section. The office’s website states that it’s currently in possession of over $5 billion in unclaimed property that belongs to about 11.6 million California residents, businesses and organizations. And that’s just in California alone — now consider what may be hiding in the other 49 states treasury vaults in unclaimed money and property.
At any given time, research shows that state governments are holding more than $10 billion in unclaimed money as well as other properties. Banks, insurance companies, utility companies, government agencies and other entities across the nation are believed to still be holding at least this amount. Some 30 million Americans are believed to have unclaimed money owed to them, just waiting to be discovered first, then recovered. Here you will find state government resources for searching data bases, finding and then submitting a claim to collect some of that unclaimed money and property.
In California, State Controller John Chiang commented that, until a few years ago, state legislation didn’t allow staff to notify nearly 80 percent of it’s residents about their unclaimed ‘goods’. Now that just recently changed in 2007 when newly signed legislation allowed the controller’s office to send notices to residents when their unclaimed money is about to become the state’s property.
Have you ever moved without getting your utility deposit back, or forgotten about an old checking or savings account? That money is still yours and you can get it from your state’s government office.
According to the United States Treasury Department, there is no centralized, government-wide database from which information on unclaimed government assets may be obtained. Each individual Federal agency maintains its own records and would need to research and release that data on a case-by-case basis. Each and every state handles the reporting and collection of unclaimed property and each state has its own laws and methods for recovering unclaimed property.
What is Unclaimed Property?
Unclaimed property can be any financial asset or sum of money that appears to have been abandoned by the owner.
Some typical types of unclaimed property include:
- Utility deposits, credit balances, store refunds
- Uncashed dividend, payroll or cashier’s checks
- Stock certificates or accounts,
- Bonds, mutual fund accounts
- Life insurance policy proceeds
- Undistributed wages
- Checking and savings accounts
- Gift certificates
- Traveler’s Checks
- Safe deposit boxes
- Royalty payments
- Court payments or deposits
State laws require financial institutions, public utilities, and various other entities to report personal property considered abandoned or unclaimed. The account or property must have been inactive for a period of time specified by state law, and the whereabouts of the owner must be unknown.
You might have unclaimed property in any state where you or your relatives have ever lived or done business.
You Might Have Unclaimed Property If…
- You have moved — with or without — leaving a forwarding address. Moving is the main source of abandoned utility deposits and bank account balances.
- You have retired, been reassigned, or laid off from a job
- You have not made a transaction on your checking or savings account for over three years
- You have stopped payments on an insurance policy
- You have an uncashed check made out to you more than 3 years ago
- You regularly throw away your mail without reading it.
- You have noticed that regular dividend, interest, or royalty checks have stopped coming
- You have settled a deceased family member’s estate
What About Paid Property Search Firms?
There are quite a few firms that advertise that they will “go out” on your behalf and search for unclaimed property that may belong to you. While many of these firms may be honest and offer decent services, you need to be aware and watch out for firms that have already found unclaimed property belonging to you and want to charge you to recover it.
Many states require search firms and so-called ‘heir-finders’ to be licensed or registered and impose legal limits on how large a percentage of the value of the claimed property they can legally charge.
Be sure to always check with the unclaimed property department within your state government before signing a contract with a property search firm if you care to go that route.
Doing it yourself is very practical and quite simple in most cases — If you can find it through the easily searchable databases, and prove that it’s yours, you can claim it yourself at NO CHARGE or FEE and by using the online claim forms which you simply print out, follow directions and mail.
Locate unclaimed money online, get claim forms and information. Remember that you might have unclaimed property in any state where you or your relatives have ever lived or done business.
The question is asked……….
What would you do with money you never knew you had?
How To Find Your Unclaimed Property
All 50 states have a Department of Revenue and Unclaimed Property or some similarly named division. This is the office responsible for maintaining the missing money and processing claims for it. Some states have limitations on how long they keep abandoned property before turning it over to state coffers, however they are still obligated to keep it indefinitely.
You’ll need to check with your individual state to find out what their procedures are. If you think you may have missing money held by your state, your first step is to contact the proper state agency (the links below will help get you to the right department) to find out whether your name, or in the case that it may be the estate of a deceased family member, that their name is on the list. Each state maintains a publicly available list of abandoned property holdings. If you or the person you represent is on the list your next step is to file a claim and return the form with the required identification or proof of ownership.
Requirements for proving ownership will vary from state to state, based on the amount of the claim (other factors may also come into play). Acceptable forms of identification may include a copy of your driver’s licenses, state ID card, military ID card, a current passport, utility or insurance receipts, social security card, bank account numbers, savings passbooks, checking account and bank statements, or other notarized documents. Speculation is that possibly 10% of the U.S. population is owed money from abandoned property. The state departments do not have the resources to investigate every case….. therefore much of it goes unclaimed.
Wondering if your state has money in your name?
Check out your state’s link below…..
Links to Each State’s Claim Division
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Canadian Province Links
Missing Money.com – Database of governmental unclaimed property records
Unclaimed.org – National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators [NAUPA]
Bank of Canada/Unclaimed Balance Search – National Database of Bank of Canada