You know how good it feels to reach into a pocket and find a $5 bill? You wonder when you left it there and how could you have forgotten about it.
The same thing can happen with savings accounts, rebates/refunds, credit balances, utility deposits, final paychecks, stocks, life insurance payouts, or safe deposit box contents. When the owner has had no contact with these accounts for 3 to 5 years or if the holder is unable to locate the owner, the money gets turned over to the state for safe keeping until the rightful owner claims it.
Did you know that all 50 states and several foreign countries have unclaimed property offices, and they might be holding money, stocks or valuable items for you or your relatives? You won’t find it unless you look for it exactly the way it’s listed.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators says the state unclaimed property offices are holding $33 billion dollars. The chances are good that you can find money, stocks, or safe deposit box contents that belong to you, a family member, friends, your church, a favorite charity, or your business. Don’t forget to look up deceased relatives too.
That amount doesn’t include $16 billion in savings bonds through the Treasury Department that have stopped earning interest, $197 million in forgotten pensions, $153 million in tax refunds that were returned to the IRS because of a bad address, $200 million for creditors in bankruptcy court and more.
In celebration of National Find Your Missing Money Day on April 16, here are seven things you may not know about unclaimed property:
- Only a few states pay interest. Most keep the interest they earn off of your money.
- There is no time limit on claiming unclaimed property (except for Indiana, which keeps unclaimed money after 25 years, and Idaho, which keeps it after only 10 years.)
- In every state, you can conduct a free online search for missing money, stocks or property the state may be holding for you. It’s free to claim except for Texas, that charges a 1.5 percent handling fee on any single claim over $100.
- When listings of unclaimed property owners are published in the newspaper, they usually just include the new names that were added since the last publication date. Just because your name isn’t there doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check the state’s unclaimed property website.
- There are many other places where unclaimed property may be hiding. It could be held by your city, county, state, or the federal government.
- Money may be held for you in a state you never lived in. How could that happen? The law about turning money over to the state, known as “escheat priority rules,” dictates that the money goes to the state of the owner’s last known address.
However, if the holder of the property does not have your name or address, it gets turned over to the state where the company is incorporated. (Search tip: You can enter “Unknown” under the Last Name on state unclaimed property websites, and it will bring up listings with an address, city and state.)
- Eventually, states will auction off anything of value from forgotten safe deposit boxes. This means that personal items, such as the lock of a baby’s hair, love letters and photographs, are trashed. The money that is made from the sale will be held for the owner of the box.
Celebrate Find Your Missing Money Day by doing an online search for your own missing money by going here and clicking on any state you’ve ever lived in. Maybe you’ll discover that a relative left you a legacy, or you’ll find other money you didn’t know you had. You’ll never know, unless you look.
There are dozens more tips and places to search can be found in Mary Pitman’s award-winning book, The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money that is Rightfully Yours, in paperback and in all e-reader formats.