I claimed $200. That’s not nothing, but it’s way below the $2,080 average unclaimed property amount others get.
California is holding onto $13 billion worth of unclaimed property. New York has even more, nearly $19 billion in what it calls “lost money.” States are holding onto money sitting in bank accounts, uncashed checks, wages, stocks, insurance policies, valuables in safety deposit boxes — property that belongs to you or relatives you can claim for free.
One in seven people in the US have unclaimed property or money their states are holding for them, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, waiting to be claimed. And if need a good reason to check, Feb. 1 is Unclaimed Property Day.
The average claim amount is $2,080. Whether it belongs to you or a deceased family member, it’s surprisingly easy and free to find out if your state — or multiple states — owes you any money. Read on to learn how to discover if you have any unclaimed property and how to get hold of it. For more, here’s when tax season starts and how to set up your IRS account. Social Security benefits could increase next year and how your Social Security benefits work.
How do I search for unclaimed money or property in my state?
You can learn whether a state is holding property for you using a a property search tool from from National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Its map of the US provides links to every state’s website for unclaimed property. It also includes links to property search tools for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Washington, DC, and some Canadian provinces. Be sure to check each state, territory or district you’ve lived in to see if you have something to claim.
And if you searched a while ago and didn’t find anything, search again. “If you have searched for your name before and not found any unclaimed property, or found property in your name and claimed it, be sure to check back again as new properties are reported to the state annually,” California State Controller Malia Cohen told CNET.
In most cases, you’ll be taken to a page where you can search directly for unclaimed property; in others, you may need to click through from a home page to the unclaimed property search page.
You will usually only have to provide your last name to search for property, although adding your first name, location or address will help narrow the search.
Two other free services — MissingMoney.com and FindMyMoney — offer built-in searches on their websites, but not for every state. MissingMoney.com lets you search 41 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Alberta, Canada, while FindMyMoney provides its own search tool for 28 states and Washington, DC. FindMyMoney links out to the state search engines for the other 23 states.
Some states, such as Ohio, work with MissingMoney.com to let people search for property and file claims. Once the claim is filed with MissingMoney.com, the state handles the communication, verification and eventual payment of the claim.
How do I claim property from a state after I find it?
There’s no federal system for claiming your property — the process will vary from state to state. And you do not need to be currently living in a state to claim your property, so check other places you’ve lived.
Most states use a system similar to an online shopping service, where you add a property to claim, and then “check out” by providing information such as your current address and Social Security number to verify your identity and prove you’re the rightful owner of the property.
Once you file your claim, the state may contact you by email for any further information it needs to process the claim. Some states will allow you to provide supporting documentation online, while others require it to be filed by mail. Your state may keep a small amount — in Kentucky, it’s $1 for any property over $10 — as a holding fee.
Most states do not have a deadline for claiming property, though some may auction it off after a set period of time. If so, you will still usually have the right to claim its value from the state.
How long will it take to get my money or property back?
As with the process for claiming, the timing for receiving your property will vary from state to state. The California state controller, for example, says that simple claims involving cash can be resolved in 30 to 60 days. More complicated claims involving multiple heirs or businesses may take up to 180 days.
Why would a state be holding onto my property anyway?
After a specific “dormancy period” — usually one to three years — businesses will send money and property to state-run unclaimed property offices when they can’t locate the owner. The state will then hold these items until their owner claims them.
The property can be money in a savings or checking account, stocks, annuities, life insurance policies or the contents of safe deposit boxes, among many possible items. New York state currently has a whopping $18.4 billion in unclaimed property, and the state comptroller office says it pays out $1.5 million per day.