Everything You Need to Know About Unclaimed Property

Photo: Oliver Kurmis

Unclaimed Property consists of cash and other personal assets that are considered lost or abandoned after an owner cannot be located within a specified period of time. This property may be cash, bonds, stocks, gift certificates, and contents of safety deposit boxes (jewelry, documents, etc.) The amazing thing about unclaimed property is that it is just that – unclaimed. It still belongs to the rightful owner, and by law, all they need to do is ask for it to regain possession. But how does one go about finding out about it in the first place?

Where to Look? Most state treasurer’s offices in the United States each maintain their own websites, where users can look up any unclaimed funds by last name. The trouble with this method is that you need to go to a separate site for each state you may have property in. And who wants to Google search for many different states that may potentially hold an unclaimed treasure? Websites such as Missingmoney.com and Unclaimed.org (both maintained by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), can help you in your search by listing contact info for each state office and providing a search tool for several treasuries at one time.

What to Do? Once you have found what might be unclaimed property that should be in your possession, there will be a form and some simple verification steps to follow to prove to the state that you are the rightful owner. Once this has been established, you can arrange for your property to be returned to you.

(NOTE: Please don’t ever pay anyone to “find” property for you. This is a service that your state treasury will gladly provide you for free. It is their job, and since most unclaimed property has a value of less than $100, it does you no good to pay someone to do what you and your state treasury can accomplish on your own.)

No property? Even if you don’t have any property, you can still take advantage of the billions of dollars of unclaimed items left abandoned in the possession of state treasuries. Many of them are now selling this property on Ebay and other online auction sites. To see a quick view of some of the items that the state of Maryland has up for auction, for example, view their seller’s item list. All proceeds from these auctions are held for the rightful owner or their heirs, and can be claimed at any time. It just may be a great way to get a good buy on that 1978 Krugerrand you’ve always wanted!

Unclaimed property is the coolest lost and found out there. Check it out today, and see if you don’t have a little unknown treasure waiting for you!

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Guest's picture

I am aware that about $600 is owed to my ex-partner and I because of an overpayment related to a house we owned together. The public listing has both our names as payees. I lived there for three years after he moved out, so I'm the one who overpaid. Because it would be worth much more than $600 not to have to deal with him again, I'm wondering if anyone is aware of a way to have the money released to one of us, well... me.

Guest's picture

When claiming unclaimed property or lost funds from a State, typically both parties will need to sign the claim form. In your case, you'll first need to determine if the reported funds was listed as joint tennants or some other type of ownership split. If listed as joint tennants or joint tennants is assumed, you might consider asking the State to release your half of the funds only once your ownership is verified. If the State is unable to do this and you know your ex-partners current address, you should ask the State what their claim procedures are when owners of funds are no longer together.

Guest's picture

Among my other finds, I found this for The Steve.

Great Article, and if I ever get my $50 from epson I'll let you know.

Amy B. Scher's picture

Not only was it entertaining to search for myself and my family, but it was profitable! My brother, sister and mom all had unclaimed money. I didn't....go figure. But, maybe for my effort, they'll share! Great article Linsey!!

Myscha Theriault's picture

This is a great how to article, Linsey. It's something I'd always heard about, but figured it was way more difficult than it actually was. Thanks.

Guest's picture

Hi Linsey. Good post, but when you said to "never pay" someone to find your money, this is not always the case and the states do not always do it gladly. In fact, many states have good reason to try to make it difficult to find your money. While it's true free searches are available, there are certain claims which require special attention (pre-escheat claims which have yet to be turned over to unclaimed property offices) and thats my specialty I have been focusing on since 1997. If you ever have trouble finding a claim, I can help and I do not charge an arm and a leg to do it! I really love to help people find their unclaimed funds.

Guest's picture

as easy as it may be. my dead mother has some unclaimed money, so my brother and i would probably get it but it says under $100 and something about rebates. doubt it's worth it to get all the info we need and froms. but it was nice wishing we had a secret mansion somewhere and hoping i could find it =P

Guest's picture

There quite a bit of money out there, but the states are making it harder and harder to claim it. I found a site that helps the process, the site is http://www.foundmoney.com/