You may not realize it, but you might have lost some of your money without even knowing about it. Sound unbelievable? Actually, it’s not: Many people have unclaimed funds, also known as unclaimed property, from all kinds of places, such as dividends or payroll checks, product refunds, traveler’s checks, old savings and checking accounts, or family stock certificates.
The good news is that each state government has its own unclaimed property laws that protect your forgotten funds or property by requiring companies to turn them over to the state. The state is then required to make an effort to find you in order to return your property. However, if it doesn’t, the government will generally hang onto your funds for as long as it takes you to claim them.
This may seem like something that would never happen to you, but I have personally been amazed at how many of my clients, friends, and family members have had unclaimed funds. The amounts that I have encountered have ranged from small to very large, so I think everyone should take a few minutes to check this out.
Finding Unclaimed Property
The first step to finding unclaimed funds is to go to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) website. From here, you can select your state (which is on the left side of the page “Links To STATE GOVERNMENT Unclaimed Money Departments”) and you will be directed to the appropriate government website, where you can search for any property that might be yours. From the NAUPA website, you can easily connect to and search all the states you’ve lived in. It just takes a minute or two per state!
When searching, I recommend starting with your last name only, as it will help you find unclaimed property belonging to any family members as well. If you have a very common last name, add the first letter of your first name to your search, and don’t forget to take into account variations of you name and maiden names. I also recommend searching for your parents, even if they are deceased. I’ve been surprised at how common it is to find out that a parent had long-forgotten unclaimed funds.
Also, remember that if you have or once had a business, you can also search by your company’s name. One of my clients was able to claim several thousand dollars that was owed to his business from nearly a decade ago!
Making a Claim
In the case of cash, you can generally file online with the state for free, which is a secure and easy process. For something like stock certificates, you may need to print and notarize paperwork. I’ve also had a few clients whose deceased parents had unclaimed property; in this case, you would need to produce a bit more documentation to show that it is a legitimate claim. Just follow the instructions provided by your state. The government’s goal is to make your claim as easy as possible to process, so it won’t be too complicated.
Finally, keep in mind that you should never have to pay to find or claim your property. There are companies that conduct searches on behalf of individuals or companies for a fee, but state governments often will not provide complete information to them in order to protect your privacy. While many of these companies operate legitimately, there are also a number of scams out there. Thus, it’s safest and most convenient to take a few minutes to conduct the search yourself and file your claim directly with your state’s government.
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Written by Bradford Pine
Bradford Pine Wealth Group – New York City Financial Advisors
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