There are Billions to Be Claimed… Is Any of It Yours?

There are Billions to Be Claimed… Is Any of It Yours?

State governments are sitting on boatloads of unclaimed dollars. 

Right now Florida alone is holding $1 billion, Washington … $1.3 billion, Illinois … $2.9 billion, California … a whopping $9.3 billion, New York … a jaw dropping $14 billion.  

And the billions keep pouring in. 

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), in FY 2015, $7.763 BILLION was collected.

Where the Money’s Coming From 

When a rightful owner cannot be located after a year or longer, funds are turned over to the government. 

For instance, suppose you had a small savings account and moved to another state. But you forgot to give the bank your new address? Since the bank doesn’t know where to send statements or tax information, it turns the money over to the state. 

The same often happens with life insurance death benefits. The insurance company can’t locate the beneficiaries, so the money eventually goes to the state. 

Other cases when the owner cannot be found include:

  • Trust distributions
  • Tax refunds
  • Contents in safe deposit boxes
  • Tenant security deposits 
  • Annuities
  • Old stocks
  • Uncashed payroll checks  

How to Find Your Share

Of the $7.763 billion cited above, $3.235 billion was returned to the rightful owners. That’s because every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have unclaimed property programs meant to find owners of lost and forgotten assets. 

The unclaimed property law is sometimes referred to as the W.C. Fields Law, named after the legendary comic and actor who died in 1946. Afraid of being robbed while he worked in the vaudeville circuit, Fields opened bank accounts in around 700 places. After his death, his heirs spent years contacting banks around the country to track down his assets.

Most states hold unclaimed financial assets until you are found. Tangibles, such as from a safe deposit box, might eventually be sold at auction and the proceeds held until you claim them. 

The amounts are usually small, $100 or so. However, last year in Arizona someone claimed $2 million. 

You may have received a notice from a company offering to recover money that you didn’t know was yours. 

Many are legitimate businesses that charge a percentage of the amount recovered. Although some are scams expecting you to pay upfront and then don’t deliver on promises. So be cautious before signing a contract. 

But if you’re willing to do some legwork, you can search for unclaimed assets on your own. And in most cases, the state will return them to you at little or no cost. 

Where to Start

The government doesn’t have one central source to look for money that might be owed to you. 

So a good place to begin is with the NAUPA. You can search every state where you have lived on their free search engine.  

Go to the IRS, too. They may be sitting on a refund you didn’t even know about because they have an old address. 

Have you ever had a credit union account? The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) could be holding funds for you. 

Or are you about to retire and think you might be entitled to a small pension from a company you worked for decades ago? The problem is … you can’t locate them.  

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has over $300 million for more than 38,000 people who haven’t claimed their pensions. The individual benefits range from 12 cents to almost $1 million. 

Speaking of retirement money …

The Department of Labor (DOL) allows companies who are terminating defined contributions plans, like 401(k)s, to transfer accounts of $1,000 or less to state unclaimed property funds when they can’t locate the owners.

So if you think you may have had small qualified retirement plan that has been terminated, the DOL will help you locate your money.  

To Prevent Losing Your Property…

Property is generally lost because the company or financial institution can’t find you.  

To prevent that: 

  1. Let banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and other financial institutions know when you move or have a change in marital status.
  2. Maintain accurate records that include account numbers, institutions’ names and addresses.
  3. Have a qualified attorney prepare a estate plan that has the contact information for all beneficiaries. And review it annually and make changes as needed.  

I hope this helps you find out if any of the unclaimed assets are actually yours.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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