Is your state holding on to unclaimed money or property that belongs to you? It’s easy to check if a state has a financial asset of yours and not much harder to claim it. The state could be holding onto the contents of an abandoned safe deposit box, an uncashed cashier’s check, a stock brokerage account, an insurance benefit, a money order, a dormant bank account, a refund or cash settlement, wages, a dividend or stocks and bonds.
Across the US, the amount of unclaimed property is significant. In 2019, the average claim paid was $1,780, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Florida returned $328 million worth of claimed property last year. California is holding on to around 57 million unclaimed pieces of property valued at approximately $10.2 billion, according to the state’s website, and in 2020 returned $258 million worth of unclaimed items. New York has even more unclaimed funds, holding on to $16.5 billion in lost or forgotten property; the state returned $126 million worth of property last year.
We’ll let you know why your state could be holding your money or other financial assets, how to check if you can make a claim and how to recover money or property for a deceased relative. For more ways the government may owe you money, here’s what to know about, seven for 2020, the expanded for up to and what we know about .
Why is a state holding my property or money?
A business or government office is usually required by law to attempt to contact the rightful owner of a financial asset it is holding. When they are unable to locate the owner after a period of time, they will send the unclaimed money or property to a state-run unclaimed property office. The state office will hold these items until their owner claims them.
With most states, finding out if you have any unclaimed property is easy. Even better, it’s free to check (and to claim too). Claiming it can be more work, however, depending on which documents you need to collect and then send to the state to prove you’re the rightful owner.
How to check for unclaimed property or money of yours a state could be holding
To find out if a state is holding your financial assets that you need to claim, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has links to official websites where you can search for unclaimed property by each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
1. Head to Unclaimed.org and either tap Select your state or province or tap your state on the map. You’ll be sent to the state’s unclaimed property page.
2. Next, enter your information. The page may ask you for your first and last name, middle initial and city. Your last name will most likely be required, but you can try using or skipping the suggested fields to narrow or broaden the results.
You can search across 39 states at once using the Missing Money website, which is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The search tool is missing 11 states, however: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming.
Another site, FindMyFunds, lets you search across 25 states and the District of Columbia at once, with direct links to unclaimed property sites for states it doesn’t include in its results.
If your search in one of the tools turns up that a state is holding property of yours, it’s time to claim it.
Do states have a deadline for you to claim your property?
Most states — including Florida, Illinois and New York — do not have a deadline for you to claim your money or property. However, for some items — such as jewelry, coins and stamps or the contents of a safe deposit box — states may auction off the property and then hold the proceeds for the rightful owner to claim. Check with your state to confirm if you have a deadline to claim your property and if the state auctions off items after a period of time.
How to claim money, property or financial asset from a state holding it for you
If your search results show that a state is holding money or property of yours, you can submit a claim to get it back. Each state handles claims a little differently. Some will allow you to submit your claim online, while others may require you to mail documentation to support your claim. Among the documents you may need to provide are:
- A copy of your photo ID
- A copy of your Social Security card or tax identification number
- Verification of your current address
- Documentation relating to the type of property, such as banking records, a cashier’s check or a stock certificate
Note that a state may auction some financial assets. For example, Florida will hold an auction this month of contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes. After the Florida auction, owners will still be able to claim the value of the item.
How long does it take to get your money after you claim it?
Don’t expect the claim to happen quickly. The office of the New York State Comptroller said it can take 90 days to process a claim. Florida’s Department of Financial Services also said to expect 90 days for its Division of Unclaimed Property to process a claim. The office of the California State Controller said it may take up to 180 days to return property.
What types of property can’t you claim?
While many states will hold financial assets ranging from mineral rights to the contents of a safe deposit box, some will not take other types of property, including real estate and unused gift certificates. Check with your state to see what types of property you can claim.
Is there a way to claim money on behalf of a deceased relative?
States also allow you to claim property of a deceased relative, and the rules around submitting a claim differ state by state. Generally, in addition to supplying documents to verify your own identity, you may need to submit a death certificate, the deceased’s will and documents showing your relationship to the deceased and your right to claim the property.
Can your state seize your claimed money to pay an outstanding debt?
Depending on the state, if you have an outstanding debt with your state or local government, your payment may be redirected to pay that debt. California, for example, allows its Franchise Tax Board to intercept unclaimed property funds — as well as state lottery money and a tax refund — to cover debts you owe to a state, county or city agency.
For more, here’s what we know about President Joe Biden’s plans for, new ways to and the latest and the bonus money for .