Well, you don't have to wait for a film crew to appear on your doorstep to see if you have money coming.
It's easy—and free—to search online databases to find out if you are due any unclaimed funds.
- Dividend checks that are never cashed.
- Insurance payouts that go unclaimed.
- Deposits on rental property owed to tenants who have moved.
- CDs that mature but are never cashed.
- Trust distributions owed to relatives who can’t be found.
- Contents of safe deposit boxes abandoned by their owners.
Businesses are required to turn over such money and property to their state treasurer. It can really add up.
State treasurers and other agencies recently had $32.877 billion owed on 117 million accounts, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
In Louisiana, one woman was owed $237,000 from an inheritance that she never knew about.
A newspaper columnist in Las Vegas claimed $741.09 after he plugged his name into the database. The money was from checks he’d never cashed and a credit union checking account that he’d forgotten about.
Sometimes no owner turns up and the state can take the property after a period of years. No one claimed the sterling silverware left in a Philadelphia safe deposit box. It sold for $65,000 on eBay.
How to search for free
You can search unclaimed property registries here.* The site shows a map of the United States. Click the state whose unclaimed property registry you wish to search.
It usually takes just a second or two to see if you’re owed money. If you do find a match in your name, file a claim. Just follow the directions on the site to fill out the required information.
Make a copy of this paperwork for your files until you receive the money you’re owed. It may take a few weeks to arrive.
If you don’t get a match for your name, don’t give up. Try searching the registries of states where you lived in the past. Or you could search under your spouse’s name or your maiden name.
Suggest to your spouse or other family members that they search too. If they’re not likely to do so, you can search for them. If you find a match for an uncle, aunt, or parent, give them a call to let them know they have money owed to them. They should be happy to hear the news.
You don’t have to pay to make a claim
Several businesses search unclaimed property databases and notify owners that they have property waiting for them. They offer to assist them in claiming that property for a percentage of the money recovered.
If such a business contacts you, there’s a good chance they’ve used public records to find money in your name. Rather than pay them a recovery fee, you can search the unclaimed property database yourself. It only takes a minute of your time.
And who knows. There may be money waiting for you.