By Ryan Velez
It may be hard to believe, but according to figures from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), a coalition of state unclaimed property programs, there is $41.7 billion in unclaimed cash and property simply sitting around waiting to be returned to its possible owner. Whether you’re in tough financial straits or simply want some added money to invest or save, that unclaimed money could certainly be put to good use, and a new article from The Network Journal has some tips to determine whether or not you deserve a piece of that pie.
How can you determine whether this money is yours? The Internet has made the process a great deal easier, so you can start by visiting missingmoney.com (an NAUPA website), or the website of your state’s unclaimed property program. These will let you search for unclaimed assets not only where you are living, but states where you lived in the past as well.
If you are wondering how these assets are lost, in all 50 states, financial institutions and insurers must escheat (i.e., hand over) account assets to the state if the owner has failed to contact the institution or insurer for a year or longer. At this point, it falls on the unclaimed property department of said state to contact the owner, but generally, there is no statute of limitations to claim what is rightfully yours. These unclaimed assets can take many forms, payroll and dividend checks that were never cashed, death benefits from life insurance policies, distributions from trusts and, of course, stock certificates and property that once occupied safe-deposit boxes.
At the federal level, there are even more unclaimed assets to get, but part of the issue is that there is no convenient central database to find them. If you are looking for a place to start, Unclaimed.org, another NAUPA site, is a good option. One example is the almost $1 billion in federal income tax refunds from the year 2012 that needs to be claimed by this year’s tax deadline.
If you find that some of these assets are yours, while the process isn’t necessarily complex, it can be prolonged. If you are the original owner, you can submit a claim form through the relevant website or by mail. If you are an heir or named a beneficiary of the policy or asset, you can file a claim identifying yourself as such. In both cases, you will need to provide relevant addresses and social security number.