Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans have unclaimed property or money floating around out there, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA)? From July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, states returned over 4 billion dollars worth of unclaimed property.
When you realize that billions of dollars of abandoned or forgotten property accumulate each year, it may be worth taking the time to do a search for unclaimed property that you or a loved one may not be aware of.
Unclaimed property refers to financial assets or tangible property that has been abandoned or forgotten by its owner for a certain time period and is now in the government's custody. The property is often a forgotten checking or saving account, uncashed paycheck, stocks, security deposits, customer overpayment, unredeemed gift cards, or tax refunds from the IRS.
There are different reasons an asset may become unclaimed. Typically, when the property owner cannot be located or contacted after a specific period of time, the property is considered abandoned and must be turned over to the state where it is located. Companies and financial institutions may also close, merge, or consolidate over time. As a result, accounts and other assets may get lost in the transition.
Regardless of the reason, property owners still have the right to assets that belong to them. As a result, once turned over, the state will hold the property or asset until the rightful owner can claim it.
The laws and regulations governing unclaimed property vary by state. However, in general, businesses and organizations are required to turn over unclaimed property to the state after a specific time period has elapsed. This helps ensure that abandoned property is not lost or forgotten forever and is eventually returned to its rightful owner.
All states are tasked with keeping forgotten or abandoned property available to its rightful owner. However, the process of reclaiming an asset may involve some work.
Here are a few things you can do to avoid your property and assets becoming unclaimed in the eyes of a company or state.
The best way to keep your assets from becoming unclaimed property is to keep them active. Making a withdrawal or contribution every so often is essential. If this is not an account you use regularly, set up a calendar reminder to complete a transaction at least annually.
Whenever you move, change your phone number, or something similar, it's critical to update that information with your financial institutions or employers (present and recent past). If a company doesn't know where to send the asset after the owner has relocated, those funds have nowhere to go.
A good portion of unclaimed property is from assets that owners left behind after moving to a new city or state. With all a move requires, it can be easy to forget that you have cash in an old account or investments that mature at a later date.
One way to avoid this financial misstep is to maintain a list of your financial accounts. Be sure to include a safe deposit box on your list if you keep valuables in one.
Keeping a trusted contact, attorney, or financial planner informed of your account types and locations can be beneficial. Doing so can make it less cumbersome for your heirs to claim property should you, as the original owner, pass away.
It is important to reiterate that once in the state's unclaimed property program, the asset will remain under its custody until the rightful owner claims it.
States often utilize proactive outreach programs to help find the rightful owners of unclaimed property. It is done through digital campaigns using social media, radio, and ads. However, the most popular way to search is online.
Many people may consider unclaimed property a non-issue because they have taken steps to keep their account active through the years. In reality, though, many Americans have unclaimed property without even realizing it. A simple online search can help determine if you or a loved one have unclaimed property quickly.
To find unclaimed property in your state, you can follow these steps:
1. Visit one of several websites that provide links to the unclaimed property programs of each state. Two that we recommend are:
2. Select your state from the grid, map, or drop-down menu on the website's homepage. You will be directed to your state's unclaimed property program.
3. If you have lived in multiple states, make sure to search all the states where you were a resident.
4. To search multiple states at once, NAUPA recommends using MissingMoney.com.
5. Search for your name or the name of a relative or friend who you believe may have unclaimed property. Each state has a database of unclaimed property that can be searched by name.
6. If you find unclaimed property in your name or the name of a relative or friend, follow the instructions on the website to initiate a claim. You may need to provide identification and proof of ownership.
7. If you do not find unclaimed property on the website, you can contact your state's unclaimed property program for assistance.
Checking for unclaimed property can be a simple and easy way to potentially recover lost or forgotten assets.
Once the rightful owner of unclaimed property realizes they have assets to recover, the claim process begins. To begin, the individual must submit an inquiry to the appropriate state requesting their assets.
Once the query is received, the state will then request a claim form and supporting documentation. This information helps the state verify that the assets in question belong to the individual trying to recover them. In addition to the individual owner filing the claim, a party of legal authority can also submit a claim on the owner's behalf.
Finally, the state evaluates the form and documentation, and the property is returned to the original owner or the rightful heir.
Right now, billions of dollars are being held in unclaimed property programs. And unfortunately, many people are unaware that these programs exist or how to start a search for their or their loved one's abandoned assets.
You may want to add searching for unclaimed property to your financial spring cleaning and organization list.
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