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Finding Unclaimed Money

Updated on March 27, 2012

Hubber Charlu has asked the question Have you ever checked to see if you have missing money or unclaimed money for free with your state?

He then goes on to describe how he did a free search at a site called missing money and discovered an unpaid salary check from 1998 for himself and another one for his father who passed away 25 years ago.

Charlu goes on to say that the search was free and his only cost was for the stamp needed to mail the claim form to the state.

A quick Google search using the words missing money in the search box came up with a number sites offering assistance in searching for unclaimed property.

Old Bank Books - Much of the Missing Money Held by States comes from forgotten Bank Accounts
Old Bank Books - Much of the Missing Money Held by States comes from forgotten Bank Accounts | Source

The first site in the search results was missingmoney.com and the second one was www.unclaimed.org which is the home page of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators or NAUPA.

The missing money site is owned and operated by a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation called The ACS Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse.

The primary business of ACS is working with companies in the United States and Canada to help them comply with unclaimed property laws of their state or province.

This is an important service as each state or province has its own laws regarding unclaimed property and the laws differ depending upon the state or province.

What is Unclaimed Property

Unclaimed property is property belonging to individuals that has been placed with a business and forgotten.

According to the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), the most common types of unclaimed property are savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

Unbelievable as it may seem people do forget to close bank accounts, forget to cash pay, dividend and other commercial checks and die without informing heirs of money and other valuables being left behind.

Under the laws of the fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the provinces of Canada, banks and other businesses cannot simply keep these unclaimed funds and other property. Instead they have to first make a good faith effort, as defined by local law, to locate the owners of the abandoned property.

When, after a period, stipulated by law, of attempting to locate the rightful owners or their heirs without success, the bank or business holding the property is required to turn the funds or other property over to the state or provincial government.

At this point the government assumes the task of safeguarding the property while, at the same time continuing efforts to locate the owners or heirs. Depending upon the law, which varies some from state to state and province to province, the government will hold the abandoned funds for decades or even forever in some jurisdictions while continuing to search for the owners of the property or their heirs.

These laws are based upon the British common law doctrine of escheat, a practice by which, in times past provided that property left behind by a deceased person with no heirs be transferred to the crown (i.e., the then reigning King or Queen of England) rather than being left without any owners responsible for it.

Unclaimed Life Insurance Disbursements are another Type of Unclaimed Property
Unclaimed Life Insurance Disbursements are another Type of Unclaimed Property | Source

In the case of physical property, such as the contents of safe deposit boxes, there is usually a fixed number of years which the state is required to keep the property before selling it.

Unlike money which is simply deposited in a government account at a bank, holding physical property entails costs for storage, inventorying and providing security so this property is eventually sold if it remains unclaimed.

Governments in the U.S. and Canada are Holding over $32 BILLION in Unclaimed Property

It may be difficult to believe that people would forget about money that is theirs.

However, according to the NAUPA website, some $32.877 Billion worth of unclaimed property is currently being held by state and provincial unclaimed property administrators in the U.S. and Canada.

This nearly thirty-three Billion dollars worth of money has been turned over to state and provincial treasuries for safekeeping from over 117 million abandoned accounts.

With Good Free Sites to Search There is No Need to Use Sites or Services that Charge Fees

While a Google or other search for unclaimed property, unclaimed money, missing money, etc. will produce numerous results you should be careful and avoid any that ask for a fee as, from my non-exhaustive research it appears that no U.S. state or territory or Canadian province levy any fees for their services.

Both the ACS Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse’s missingmoney.com site and the NAUPA’s unclaimed.org site provide their information for free and have links to the individual sites of most U.S. states and Canadian provinces (they are working on adding others) none of which seem to charge for their services.

In fact, when you click on the link on the NAUPA site for the Canadian Province of Alberta’s site you will see that the Alberta site has box at the top states that neither the missingmoney.com nor the unclaimedproperty.alberta.ca site charge a service fee while other sites may charge fees.

Many fee charging sites are legitimate and there is nothing wrong with their charging a fee for their research services.

In the pre-Internet era paying fees made sense in many cases as considerable time and effort was invested by these services to research, locate and publish this information.

However, the Internet makes it relatively easy and inexpensive for state and provincial governments to move this information to the Internet and keep it up to date.

Keep Track of Your Money and Don't Forget About It
Keep Track of Your Money and Don't Forget About It | Source

Comments

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    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 

      5 years ago from California

      I found a couple of unclaimed items that belong to me from 20 years ago. Not a lot, but was a nice surprise. Thank you for sharing this knowledge with us. Voted up and shared!

    • reagu profile image

      reagu 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      People should heed this because the state of NJ sent me a letter a few years ago about a $200+ sum of money that belonged to me from a bank account I opened many moons ago. I had completely forgotten about it so it was a nice surprise.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Barbsbitsnpieces - thanks for your comment. Actually, I think that most unclaimed money and other property are accounts of deceased persons which their survivors didn't know about or bank and other financial accounts set up for children or grandchildren and later forgotten by those who opened them and not known about by the children whom they were set up for.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Chuck...Unbelievable that people have unclaimed checks, or stocks, or anything cash-worthy lying in waiting somewhere that they have forgotten about.

      I can't afford to forget those things, and I'm sure not a single cent is hiding somewhere for me to claim! Ha!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      MobyWho - thanks for the tip on misspelling names a bit. Also, don't forget nicknames. On some of my accounts I have used Charles and others Chuck.

    • MobyWho profile image

      MobyWho 

      6 years ago from Burlington VT

      We've found a couple of accounts in a couple of states- over two generations! Not big, but fun. Also, have looked up friends' names and enjoy linking the info to them! Giving is such fun and it's so simple. Be sure to misspell a name two or three ways - something might turn up. (Just remember to let the IRS know around tax time of any windfall!) Great Hub!

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      incomeguru - unfortunately scoundrels can be found in many businesses which is why it is a good idea to exercise caution when buying things and do a little research beforehand when working with things in new areas.

      thanks for your comment

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 

      6 years ago from Lagos

      There are some individual or Organizations operating illegally as unclaimed money administrator and only to defraud innocent citizens or their beneficiaries. Thanks for enlightening us the more and with useful links.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Charlu, thanks for your kind comments and for providing me with the topic idea.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Cardisa, I believe I did take a quick look at Jamaica and saw that funds revert to the State. Thanks for commenting.

    • Charlu profile image

      Charlu 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Absolutely phenomenal hub and I can't believe I just received a notification about your answer. You did a lot of work and research on this hub that will help others to save an enormous amount of time. Voted up, useful, awesome. Thanks for answering my question with such a great hub. PS For the record I'm a she.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      6 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      My father did this and he ended up with a check for .13. But I am sure others have received more.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Chuck, this is very interesting, pity I don't live in the US or Canada. Unclaimed property in Jamaica would automatically go to the State.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      alocsin, Bldg an Architect - thanks for visiting and for your comments. Glad you found some money alocsin. In researching this I used the missingmoney website to check my name but came up with nothing.

    • Bldg an Architect profile image

      Bldg an Architect 

      6 years ago

      This is a fantastic idea. Things do fall through the cracks and I'd never think to check for unclaimed money. Thanks! Up, useful, and shared.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I used these resources before and discovered some missing stock that belonged to me. I used it again today and found that my brother had an unclaimed bank out. Thanks much for these resources. Voting this Up and Useful.

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