How to Find and Claim Your Family's Forgotten Assets
Forgotten or lost money is very common in the United States. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, there are billions of dollars in unclaimed funds sitting in state treasuries and other agencies waiting to be claimed.
These unclaimed funds are either from accounts that are inactive or whose owners or heirs cannot be located. Unclaimed funds can include lost or forgotten saving or checking accounts, stocks, utility security deposits, tax refunds, life insurance policy proceeds, uncashed dividend checks, matured savings bonds and much more.
This typically happens because the owner changed their address or name, the owner died and the estate was unaware of the money or the heirs could not be located. By law, companies and financial institutions that cannot find the owner or their next of kin within two to five years must turn the property over to the state where it is held indefinitely.
Where to Search
About 10% of all Americans have some unclaimed money waiting to be found, so it is very possible you have some too. To start your search, go to Unclaimed.org, which has links to all state programs that will let you do a state benefits search online for free.
Be sure to check every state in which you have lived, worked or did business. Also, make sure to check under your maiden name (if applicable), and if you have a frequently misspelled name, search those misspellings too. Using a first initial and last name is also encouraged to make sure everything comes up. Every state can tell you immediately if unclaimed money exists, as well as how to go about collecting it.
Look Here Too
In addition to state treasuries, here are additional resources that can help you look for unclaimed money that may have been overlooked.
Forgotten retirement benefits: To search for lost or forgotten 401(k) funds your parent may have left behind with an old employer, use the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits website. To search for lost pension benefits, use the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation trusteed plan search tool at PBGC.gov/search-trusteed-plans.
Lost life insurance: To track down a lost or forgotten life insurance policy, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an insurance regulatory support organization, offers a free policy locator service.
Unredeemed savings bonds: It is very common for people to lose track of U.S. saving bonds because they are often given to children as gifts, then forgotten before the bonds reach maturity. The U.S. Department of the Treasury provides an online search tool at TreasuryHunt.gov for finding matured, uncashed savings bonds over 30 years old and no longer earning interest.
Federal tax refunds: Each year thousands of refund checks totaling millions of dollars are returned to the IRS by the post office. To look for lost Federal tax refund checks go to IRS.gov/refunds or call 800-829-1954.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.