There is currently $42 billion of unclaimed property in the United States, meaning each state holds money that rightfully belongs to someone that has yet to lay claim to it. For example, the State Treasurer’s Office of South Carolina currently holds more than $550 million of unclaimed funds across the state.
If you’re one of the many citizens in the U.S. that is a rightful recipient of unclaimed money, all you need to do is locate it and claim it. So, how do go about finding and claiming money owed to you? It helps to know exactly what unclaimed money is and where to look for it.
What Is Unclaimed Money?
Unclaimed money, also referred to as unclaimed funds or unclaimed property, is money held by financial institutions and companies in accounts that have been inactive and uncontacted by their rightful owners for a year or longer.
The most common forms of unfound money include:
- Savings and checking accounts
- Security deposits
- IRS refunds
- Uncashed dividends
- Payroll checks
- Traveler’s checks
- Trust distributions
- Money orders or gift certificates
- Insurance payouts and life insurance policies
- Mineral royalty payments
- Safe deposit box contents
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of how money can easily be lost or forgotten.
Where to Find Unclaimed Money
Fortunately, there are many places you can go to find unclaimed money. Below are several institutions and places you can look should you suspect you are the owner of unclaimed funds:
The Internal Revenues Service (IRS)
It’s very common for taxpayers to relocate before they receive their income tax refund checks or to even provide an incorrect address to the IRS. If this sounds like you, contact the IRS to track down your refund.
State Tax Departments
If you’ve changed your name, have moved, or have provided an incorrect address, you may also miss out on your state income tax check. You can use services like unclaimed.org to search each state where you’ve registered an address in the past.
Employee Retirement Plans
If you’ve switched jobs recently, you may have accumulated funds in your previous employer’s retirement plan. If you suspect this has happened, you should check The National Registry to find out.
Failed Pension Plans
If you were enrolled in a pension plan for an employer that failed, you can check with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to see if they owe you any money. While it may not be the full amount you signed up for, you may be guaranteed a certain amount.
You may have unclaimed funds sitting in old bank accounts, such as a checking or savings account. The funds could come from a variety of sources, such as insurance refunds, utility deposits, dividend earnings, escrow accounts, or wages deposited from your former employer.
Life Insurance Policies
According a study by Consumer Reports, at least $1 billion in benefits from forgotten or misplaced life insurance policies are left unclaimed. You could be the beneficiary of a policy, or you could be owed money from a life insurance carrier that demutualized. In both cases, you can check Demutualization Claims’ website to begin your search.
You must now purchase electronic savings bonds from the U.S. Treasury since paper savings bonds are no longer available through other financial institutions. However, there are billions of dollars in unclaimed bonds held by the Treasury. If you think you have unclaimed money in the form of savings bonds, you can check The Bureau of Fiscal Service’s website.
Other Ways to Find Out if You Have Unclaimed Money
As you can tell, there are a multitude of places you can check for unclaimed funds. To make the process simpler, there are public services available that streamline the process. Check below for three easy ways you can locate any unclaimed money you may have.
Take Advantage of Online Services
Websites like missingmoney.com and unclaimed.org provide access to state records of unclaimed property. You can search each state you’ve lived in for a cursory search of any unclaimed money you may have waiting for you.
Conduct Free Searches
You can also search Google by state. For the best results, insert “state of ____ unclaimed funds search” (omit quotes) in the search bar and look for your state. You’ll most likely come across a Comptroller or Treasurer of State site where you can search for unclaimed money with your first and last name. Whenever you conduct a search, check all of your past addresses. If you’re married, check for your maiden name and use your first initial and last name to ensure you come across all available information.
Consider Using a Third Party Service
Another option is to use third party services to locate your property for you. Typically, they can locate and return your property with a quick turnaround time. However, be wary that you aren’t paying too much for these services. Before paying, take the time to vet the service on social media pages or look into any testimonials that may be available online.
How to Claim Unfound Money
If you find unclaimed money that is rightfully yours and you’d like to claim it, then you need to verify your identity. Requirements vary by state, but there are some key documents you’ll need regardless of state law.
- A valid form of I.D., such as a passport or driver’s license
- Your Social Security number
- Proof of address for the property you’re claiming, like a utility bill
- Proof of your current address
Once you’ve provided the documentation, you’ll need to file a claim. Depending on your state and the service you use, there should be very specific instructions detailing how to file your claim. In some cases, you may be able to file online. If you can’t, the other option is to mail a claim form with any other required documentation.
After you’ve successfully filed your claim, you must wait for your check to arrive. This can take anywhere from one week to six months depending on circumstances. The good news is that the hard work is done!
Unclaimed money is quite common, so there’s a chance you may have some waiting for you. Take advantage of the financial services available to you so that you don’t leave money on the table.
Sources: CNBC | Moultrie News | Keane Organization | IRS | Unclaimed.org | National Registry | PBGC | Consumer Reports | Demutualization Claims | Treasury Direct | Bureau of the Fiscal Service | MissingMoney.com