Are You Entitled to Lost Money?
Unclaimed property (lost money) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for a period of one year or longer (depending upon state law). Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
Financial institutions and companies will turn these funds over to a state unclaimed property department where the funds are held until claimed by the owner or heir. This typically occurs when you relocate, close a business address, misplace a check, the owner dies and it’s not listed in the estate or there’s no will, etc. It can also occur if you are the beneficiary of an estate and the trustee is unable to locate you and other heirs of the deceased.
There are various ways to locate these assets. There are commercial firms that may seek you out. However, you can perform a search for free in a number of ways. For instance, each state has a website for its unclaimed property department, allowing you to search state by state. Generally, one would only search the state that he or she has been a resident of. The State of California is currently in possession of more than $6.9 billion in Unclaimed Property belonging to approximately 24.9 million individuals and organizations. Here is the link to the California State Unclaimed Property’s search page. When you do your searches, don’t forget to search for other names of family members, especially if they have passed away without a will.
There is also a website developed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) that provides links from a map to each individual’s state’s search site. NAUPA is also currently developing a search site that will locate unclaimed money in all states called missingmoney.com. However, that site is currently under development and does not include all states, so it is wise to check both it and each individual state in which you have been a resident. In fact, it doesn’t look like California data has been linked to this site yet.
What are your odds of finding some lost money? Well, the author, while researching this article, found five accounts in her husband’s parents names totaling over $6,000 on the California Unclaimed Property site. A nice bonus for writing the article! If you are the owner of the property, claiming it is pretty easy. You can process the claim online if it is under $500 and could receive the money in 14 days. But be prepared to do some work to claim the monies if it’s over $500 or in someone else’s name; such as a deceased parent. There are multiple items required to document that you are who you say you are and that you are entitled to the monies especially if there was no will. First, the claim affirmation form has to be notarized. Then, if there are others who are eligible for the money, say other brothers or sisters or grandchildren of the deceased, you have to fill out a family lineage form. You also have to provide notarized copies of death and birth certificates, photo copies of social security numbers and proof that the person lived at the address noted on the unclaimed property listing. And, if say there you have two sisters, and your parents passed away, you will only receive 1/3 of the unclaimed money no matter what the circumstances were unless your siblings have also passed away and you are the only living child. Oh, and mailed in claim applications can take up to 180 days to be processed. So, don’t expect a check in the mail next week. You will receive a letter confirming they have received your request, and then you wait.
Who knows what you will find, but it only takes a few minutes to check and could yield some pleasant surprises. And, some money is always better than none, so good luck in your search!
If you have any questions, please give us a call at Bressler & Company — 559.924.1225.