What Is Unclaimed Money and How Can I Find It?
You may have unclaimed assets waiting for you. Here’s how to find state unclaimed property and recover what is rightfully owed to you.
November 2, 2021
Would you believe it if we told you that you may have money waiting for you that just needs to be claimed? It’s true!
Typically, unclaimed money is held by agencies in the state in which you live and is available to claim by the rightful owners.
Unclaimed money is surprisingly common in the United States. It’s estimated that roughly 10% of people nationwide have unclaimed property waiting for them.
In some states, this figure is much higher. For example, roughly 50% of residents in the state of Washington have unclaimed property. The state has already processed $1.1 billion worth of claims with an average return of around $250.
There is a lot of money waiting in all the state coffers. As of 2020, there was nearly $100 billion in unclaimed assets held by state agencies.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about how to find unclaimed money and recover the unclaimed assets that are rightfully yours.
What is unclaimed money?
When a business, agency or government department owes you money and you do not claim it, the funds are considered unclaimed money.
Funds are typically sent to the state unclaimed property agency, which is responsible for managing these funds. The agency holds on to the funds until the rightful owner comes forward to claim them.
Unclaimed money can come from many sources, but some of the most common include:
Payouts from class action lawsuits
Refunds from recalls and rebates
Uncashed paychecks from past employers
Unclaimed insurance payouts
Refunds and security deposits from landlords
Refunds from overpayments
Unclaimed tax refunds from the IRS or state agencies
Matured savings bonds that have not been claimed
Unclaimed inheritances and gifts
For example, money may end up in state unclaimed property coffers if a landlord mails you a security deposit refund, but the check doesn’t reach you. After a designated period of time — this varies by state — the funds would be sent to the unclaimed assets agency for the state in which you lived at the time.
What is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property can be used to refer to any asset — money or property — that is held by state agencies and considered unclaimed. When talking about physical property, this could include real estate, vehicles and other valuable possessions.
Generally, unclaimed physical property ends up being managed by the same agencies that manage unclaimed money, though the claim process may differ slightly.
Unclaimed property often results from a death in which the deceased individual doesn’t have a written will or clear legal heirs to their property. If you think you may have an unclaimed inheritance, start by checking with state unclaimed property agencies.
What is the best website to find unclaimed money?
As we mentioned, unclaimed assets are managed by state agencies. Unclaimed.org links to all of the relevant agencies in each state. Simply find the website for the state you currently live in and type in your details — usually just your first and last name and your city.
If you’ve lived or worked in multiple states, try MissingMoney.com, which allows you to search multiple states at once.
If you know what you’re looking for and you don’t see it on your state’s website, you may need to do a bit more research. USA.gov has a page on unclaimed money which links to unclaimed property websites other than the standard state agencies.
Be wary of any service charging money to help you claim unclaimed property. In most cases, individuals can find and claim these funds without assistance from paid services.
How to find unclaimed money in your state
Finding and claiming assets is easier than ever, thanks to new online portals for state agencies.
Locate the website of your state’s unclaimed property department.
Type in your information.
Browse the results for entries that match your name and address.
Click “claim” on each relevant entry.
Follow the claim instructions on the website.
Each state agency will have a different process for how the claims are actually processed. Smaller claims can usually be made online directly through the state website. You may also be emailed forms to fill out, or you may be asked to upload certain documents.
Larger claims may require additional verification steps to ensure that you are the rightful owner.
If your claim is approved, the unclaimed funds will typically be sent to you via check. In the case of physical property, such as real estate, the transfer process is more complex and varies by state.
Remember to check state agencies for each state you’ve lived in. If you have unclaimed money from a landlord in Oregon but now live in California, those funds will show up in the Oregon database.
Likewise, it might be worthwhile to check old addresses in the state where you currently reside. The online search forms will typically ask for your city; you can either leave this field blank to see more results or search individually for cities you’ve lived in previously.
Ensuring that you claim what is rightfully yours is just one of many steps you can take to strengthen your financial position. Check out the rest of Tally’s blog. The Score, to learn all about personal finance, debt, investing and more. And if paying off credit card debt is on your financial to-do list, explore the Tally† app, which makes it easy to automate your debt payoff strategy.
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