If you’ve recently stepped in to help manage your elderly parents’ finances, make sure you look into unclaimed property. Many Americans have financial property that they have forgotten about over the years. Seniors are even more likely to be unaware of these abandoned accounts and refunds.
Learn what unclaimed property is and how to find long lost money on your loved one’s behalf.
What exactly is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property is money or accounts that have had no activity or owner contact for a period of one year or longer. The unclaimed assets are then turned over to the state. Each state has a legal obligation to hold the funds until claimed by the rightful owner instead of giving it back to the institution who initially distributed the money. Most states hold lost funds until the owner is found.
Common forms of unclaimed property include:
- Savings and checking accounts
- Payroll checks
- Trust distributions
- Insurance payouts or refunds
- Customer overpayments
- Utility security deposits
- Contents of safety deposit boxes
How do I find unclaimed property?
Companies and financial institutions are required by law to send funds from dormant accounts to the state of the owner’s last known address. This means that there could potentially be unclaimed property in every state the rightful owner has resided.
Note: Some state treasurers and other officials may attempt to locate the rightful owner by mail, but you’ll likely need to conduct your own search.
The federal government does not have a centralized database for finding unclaimed property, but you can search for unclaimed property using official state databases. State database searches are relatively easy to use and free of charge.
There are companies that act unethically, and even fraudulently, under the guise of helping obtain information related to unclaimed property for a fee. To protect your loved ones, it’s important to be aware of such scams that often target seniors. When in doubt, discuss unclaimed property with a trustworthy financial professional or use official state resources.
How do I file a claim?
To receive the money, you’ll have to file a claim with the state. The steps may vary state by state, but you will need to produce documentation to prove the rightful property owner’s identity. You will likely need to include a driver’s license or other state issued I.D., social security card, and proof of current or previous address. Some states may allow you to file your claim online, while others will require the documents be mailed. Depending on the state, the money may be received in as little as a few weeks or up to a few months.
Every year, states return billions of dollars in unclaimed property. In California alone, $309 million was returned during the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Could your loved one also be entitled to a payout? A quick search for unclaimed property could lead to money you never knew existed!
Need Help Claiming Your Property?
If you have other questions or need help searching for unclaimed property, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, Marcia L. Campbell, CPA for more information.