Have you ever discovered money in your couch that went missing? That feeling of a few extra quarters in your pocket feels really good doesn’t it. Now imagine that feeling on a potentially much larger scale. That is the joy that goes with finding unclaimed property you are owed and getting it back.
The Best Way To Deal with Unclaimed Property is to not Abandon Property
I wrote about keeping your accounts simple to avoid escheatment early on in the history of this blog. Essentially money doesn’t become unclaimed if you pay close attention to it. Usually accessing an account is enough to restart the timeframe before the government takes it. Sometimes a few more strict rules exist where you have to deposit or withdrawal small funds. Even then a company is required to notify you before the government absconds with your money giving you one last chance, so just keeping your contact information up to date can be enough. The point is it’s relatively easy if you have a small number of accounts to manage them such that you have no unclaimed property.
Our Unclaimed Property Experience
So I say all that but how do I have unclaimed property? Well I don’t. This little piece was composed as I help another family member to claim money they are owed. But… in the process of doing the claiming I did note something, not all unclaimed money comes from your accounts. A large portion seems to be things like unspent gift cards from places like home depot, security deposits from former apartments, and even checks lost in the mail. So while it’s profoundly easy to avoid having unclaimed money, it is still good to check if you are owed money from time to time.
How to Check for Unclaimed Property
So how do you check? Well most states have a website where you can search for your name and city to see if you are owed money. I have attempted to provide links to each states sites below to help you in your investigation. See the end of the post for these links.
How to Claim
So what do you do if you found you are owed something? Well the process is fairly similar from state to state, but I’m going to walk you through the process from the perspective of Pennsylvania, where my relative lives. First off, there are many companies out there that specialize in getting back unclaimed property. They charge you for this service. Frankly in most cases I can’t see you needing this given how simple the process is.
- So the first step in claiming unclaimed property is to find the property on the aforementioned state government pages. Pick the items under your name and generate a form claiming these items. Print that form.
- You’ll then need evidence the funds are yours. To do this you should have ID, proof of residence, and any old account information you can find. Print this out too. Note often just ID is not enough.
- Most states require you to sign and notarize the form before sending it in. Your local bank branch will typically notarize documents for members for free. No branch? Some banks and credit unions will notarize even if you are not a member. Google the bank name and notary to verify if they provide the service for free. Even if it costs money it’s likely limited to 3-4 dollars.
- Finally mail the form in and wait.
Receiving Your Unclaimed Property
If/when approved you will receive a check for the funds from the state agency. Note the words check. Unfortunately the government liquefies anything they repossess. This also unfortunately means while the governments held it all interest or earnings have stopped. A good reason to check fairly regularly if you have complex accounts.
The Results of Our Abandoned Money Search
In our case I found a retirement account, a uncashed check, and some dividends in my family members name. He is currently awaiting his check back from the government.
Links to States Unclaimed Property Sites
Below are the links for each states Unclaimed property site. Many states are currently outsourcing to a company called missingmoney.com, so you may be able to hit multiple states with their search. Happy Hunting!
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
All links per state treasury office website as of this writing. If a link stops working please let us know and we’ll update it.