While the idea of losing track of money or having an unclaimed inheritance may seem odd, it happens more often than most people would expect. Fortunately, finding out about unclaimed property isn’t overly challenging. Here’s a look at five ways to find unclaimed money.
1. State Unclaimed Property Offices
Typically, the easiest way to begin your search for an unclaimed inheritance or other assets is by searching for your state’s unclaimed property office. Every state has a department that oversees the accounts that are surrendered to the government, which can occur when the genuine owner isn’t located in a timely manner. That entity then maintains a searchable database that anyone can use to check for unclaimed money.
Generally, all you need to do is put “[your state] unclaimed property” into a search engine, and you’ll find the office in the results. Just make sure you find the listing that’s associated with a legitimate government agency, as not all of the results are associated with the genuine agency.
During your search, it’s also wise to check any state you’ve previously lived in or where relatives that may have left an inheritance lived. With the former, you can look for unclaimed property that’s directly connected to you by searching for your current and any previously used names. With the latter, you may need to input the personal details of the deceased to find the unclaimed money, as it’s potentially still listed in their name.
Once you find any unclaimed property, you’ll need to go through the claims process. Typically, you need to provide some simple proof that you are the person associated with the unclaimed assets. Once you do, you’ll usually receive the associated property during the timeframe outlined on the website.
MissingMoney.com is a comprehensive website that’s endorsed by the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) and run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). Functionally, it’s a one-stop shop for searching various state databases that list unclaimed assets, making it a useful tool for anyone that’s moved between multiple states or prefers to use a single resource.
Some states partner directly with the site, allowing you to file claims right through it. Others may require you to submit claims through the state website, but MissingMoney.com can direct you to the right place, making it simple.
Along with entering your name, you can narrow the results based on your current city and state or those you’ve resided in previously. This strategy is potentially critical if your name is relatively common. Otherwise, you may end up skimming thousands of results looking for matches.
It’s critical to note that MissingMoney.com is a replacement search tool for the one that was previously found at Unclaimed.org. Both sites are overseen by the NAUPA, so they access the same details. However, if you prefer to engage with your state program directly, Unclaimed.org does have a search feature that lets you find the appropriate state website quickly, so keep that in mind.
3. Treasury Hunt
Treasury Hunt is a tool that’s available through the US Department of the Treasury. Generally, it’s used to find out about mature but unclaimed savings bonds or missing interest. As a result, it’s a simple way to learn about assets a person owned before they passed away or savings bonds you may have forgotten about over the years.
Using this tool does require very specific information. You need to provide the Social Security Number of the potential savings bond owner, as well as their state. With that, any presented matches are usually definitive, and you’ll get clear instructions outlining what needs to happen to claim the funds.
As with many of these other search options, you may need to update the state to check each one you or the deceased party resided in as a precaution. Also, the results will only show matured savings bonds, so if there are any that haven’t reached maturity yet, they won’t appear in the list until the maturity date passes.
4. Wills and Estate Plans
Another resource that may help you learn about unclaimed inheritances is the deceased person’s will or estate plan. These documents formally outline how they wanted their assets divvied up after their death. As a result, they often serve as reasonably comprehensive records of the deceased’s property.
If you don’t have a copy of a person’s will after their passing, you can check with the probate court to see if it was submitted. You can also contact the attorney that drafted a will or estate plan. If you’re the executor of the estate, the lawyer that drafted the documents can potentially provide copies directly. If you aren’t, they can often direct you to the person listed as the executor, giving you someone you can ask about the contents of the will or estate plan.
Executors are responsible for keeping beneficiaries reasonably informed, so most are open to sharing relevant information with beneficiaries who may receive various assets. If the executor isn’t communicating appropriately, you may want to speak with an attorney that serves beneficiaries for assistance in resolving the matter.
5. Locator Service
If you know that there are unclaimed assets or an unclaimed inheritance, but you’re struggling to track it down, you can consider hiring a locator service. These professionals will manage a thorough search on your behalf, hopefully tracking down the property you’re trying to find.
It’s critical to keep in mind that locator services do come at a cost, so the missing property or inheritance needs enough potential value to justify the expense. Additionally, make sure a locator service is highly reputable before engaging with them. Some less scrupulous companies may do little more than try the tactics above to gather information, and others may be outright scams. As a result, some due diligence is essential.
Have you ever tracked down an unclaimed inheritance or other unclaimed money and would like to tell others about your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald has worked as a Financial Advisor for the military for past 13 years. She has taught Personal Financial classes on every subject from credit, to life insurance, as well as all other aspects of financial management. Mrs. McDonald is a former AFCPE Accredited Financial Counselor and has helped her clients to meet their short-term and long-term financial goals.