Learn about Unclaimed Assets

According to the US Treasury Department, more than $3 billion dollars in unclaimed funds are returned to the rightful owners each year.

Types of Unclaimed Assets 

You or your family members may have uncollected commissions from past employers, unused money on old gift cards, or a positive account balance with a forgotten bank or other financial institution.

You could also be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or another type of inherited investment, both are common to unclaimed funds and assets.

There are various forms that unclaimed assets can take, the most common types of unclaimed assets include bank accounts, credit card accounts, bearer bonds, saving bonds, uncashed payroll checks, money orders, travelers checks, stock and corporate shares.

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Other examples of tangible unclaimed assets would be personal property such as a car, house or other real estate, and the contents of a safety deposit box.

Security deposits you made on rental property and utilities that were not returned to you, and overpayment of taxes or uncashed tax return checks also qualify as unclaimed assets.

Pension benefits, VA and life insurance accounts from failed banks that are FDIC insured, unused prepaid college funds (in accordance with their contract), lost insurance policies, escrow accounts, and mortgage and home insurance overpayments are all classified as unclaimed assets as well.

Unclaimed money is sometimes referred to as unclaimed property, but the nuance is that it’s invested in suspense accounts, so that the true owners and beneficiaries of all types of reportable property can be found.

State Laws

All 50 states have unclaimed property rights laws that require organizations to contact you if they owe you abandoned money or property.

Businesses that hold onto unclaimed property are legally required to make a “best effort” attempt to locate the legal owner of the unclaimed asset.  Reaching out to the last known phone number, sending a certified letter to the last address on record, or placing a classified ad in the local newspaper would qualify as a sufficient “best effort” attempt.

However, if the company is unsuccessful in locating the owner of the unclaimed property, they are required by law to turn the asset over to a state or local government.

States routinely review companies that do not file annual reports on unclaimed properties, as well as those who continually file reports claiming that they own no unclaimed assets.

There is no limitation on unclaimed property inspections, even if a company did file their unclaimed property report, this means that the state can come at any time and as many times as they want, to do an unclaimed asset audit. These audits can get very expensive, so it’s in the company’s best interest to correctly report any unclaimed assets they acquire.

Claiming Your Asset

Once an unclaimed asset is turned over to the state or local government, it is up to you to find and claim that asset.

You are able to claim unclaimed assets for yourself or a deceased family member, as long as you have the correct documentation. If you are willing to reclaim your lost money, each state has its own process and requirements, but they should be fairly straightforward.

If you suspect that you may have unclaimed money from a deceased relative, you might want to do some research on one of the many sites available. You will then be responsible for asserting a claim with the state for the unclaimed property.

Avoiding Fraud

A government employee will never contact you regarding your unclaimed asset.

Some companies make a business out of reuniting people with their unclaimed property; just be aware that they charge a commission for the work they do.

After payment is received, the company usually just refers you to the website of the State, which is already available free of charge.

It is easier to avoid fraud if you know what to look out for, and people should always be wary of unclaimed asset scams. Understand that most unclaimed asset administrators and associations offer free ways to search for and claim your money.

While you can complete your search and submit your claim for free, there are usually fees you will have to pay to recover assets from the state.

Before you sign any contract, contact your State’s Office of Unclaimed Property to ensure that it is a legitimate business you are dealing with.

Resources To Find Unclaimed Assets

If you believe that you could be the beneficiary of unclaimed assets, you now have the opportunity and resources to confirm this and claim your rightful property.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a “Workers Owed Wages” page that allows you to search by Employer’s name.

If a company you worked for had a claim against them for unpaid wages, the department of labor will collect the back wages and hold them for three years while trying to contact the owed employees.  After three years the money will be sent to the U.S. Treasury.

The IRS refund tool allows you to search for unpaid tax refunds; you will need your social security number, filing status, and refund amount.

If you need help on finding this information they have a Refund Help tab that shows you the exact places on your tax return forms to look.

Unclaimed.org has a clickable map of the United States that allows you to go directly to your state’s specific unclaimed property search page. States allow you to search by your name or your business name.

Treasury Direct.gov allows you to search for registered Treasury Notes, Matured Treasury Bonds, and Matured Savings Bonds.  It also allows you to search for interest due on Series HH or Series H savings bonds.

The HUD Office of Financial Services has a page where you can search to see if you are due a FHA refund. You can use your last name or you FHA case number.

The National Credit Union Administration has an Unclaimed Deposits section for unclaimed funds when a union is liquidated.  You can filter out their unclaimed deposits list by name.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has an online search for unclaimed plans.  You can search for unclaimed Insured plans, Trusteed plans, and Pensions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has an Unclaimed Funds search page for Life insurance policy holders and their beneficiaries.

Always Check Back

Don’t be discouraged if your name or the name of a family member does not appear in the search results and you don’t find money or property right away.

New information is constantly added to the database of unclaimed properties, so make sure you check your state’s (and any other state you or your family has ever lived in) unclaimed assets site every year or two. You never know when your name could come up and you become the next recipient of the unclaimed asset jackpot!