And states are not keeping this unclaimed property a secret. South Carolina, for example, is conducting a “Matchelor” social media blitz to connect state residents with what they owe. The total value of unclaimed properties is high. New York holds $16.5 billion in lost or forgotten property, while California holds an estimated $10.2 billion. Florida returned claimed property worth $328 million last year. The average claim paid was $1,780 in 2019, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
It only takes a few minutes to check and a few seconds longer to claim the item your state is holding. We will explain how. For more money matters, read about:, the extended for up to , and what we know about a and the .
The Unclaimed Property Your State Might Own
States may contain a range of your items that you are entitled to, including: a forgotten check or savings bank account, a dividend, stocks, bonds, a credit, a refund or cash payment, a utility deposit, an uncashed check, money order, insurance benefits, wages, or the contents of an abandoned safe (including jewelry or coins).
Why your state clings to money or property?
A corporate or government office is usually required by law to contact the rightful owner of money or property in its possession. If they can’t find the rightful owner over time, they should send the unclaimed item to a state-run unclaimed property agency. Some states may say the property has been “expropriated,” meaning the item has been transferred to the state. The state office will hold these items until the owner claims them.
In most US states, it’s free and easy to find out if you have unclaimed properties. Claiming is also free, but can take a bit more work depending on what documents you need to collect and then send to the state to prove you are the rightful owner.
Online checking for unclaimed assets
To find out if a state owns financial assets that you should claim, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has links to official websites where you can search for unclaimed properties from each state, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
1. Go to Unclaimed.org and choose either: Select your state or province or tap or click your state on the map. You will be redirected to the unclaimed state property page.
2. Then you may need to choose a link such as “Search for Unclaimed Property” (California) or “Get Started” (Texas), or the search box may be on the first page you landed on (Utah).
3. Now enter your details. The page may ask for your first and last name, middle initial, and city. Your last name is most likely required, but you can try using or skipping the suggested fields to narrow or broaden the results.
You can search 39 states at once using the Missing Money website, which is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. However, the search feature is missing 11 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wyoming. The layout contains advertisements in a way that can be confusing, so read carefully.
Another site, FindMyFunds, lets you search 25 states and the District of Columbia at once, with direct links to the official unclaimed state property sites it doesn’t include in the results.
How to Claim Property or Financial Assets from Your State?
If your search results show that a state has money or property belonging to you, you can file a claim to get it back. Each state handles claims a little differently. Some allow you to submit your claim online, while others may require you to submit 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 individual tax identification number
- Verification of your current address
- Documentation related to the type of property, such as bank details, cashier’s check or stock certificate
Note that a state may auction some financial assets. Florida, for example, is holding an auction of the contents of abandoned lockers this month. After the Florida auction, owners can still claim the item’s value.
Deadlines to claim your money
Most states, including Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas, do not have a deadline for claiming your money or property. However, for some items, such as jewelry, coins and stamps or the contents of a safe deposit box, states can auction the property and then hold the proceeds to the rightful owner to claim. Check with your state to find out if you have a deadline to claim your property and if the state will auction items over time.
Claims lead times
Do not expect the claim to be processed quickly. The New York State Comptroller’s office said it can take 90 days to process a claim. Florida’s Department of Financial Services also said it expects 90 days for the Division of Unclaimed Property to process a claim. The California State Controller’s office said it could take up to 180 days to return property.
Items you are not allowed to claim
While many states have financial assets ranging from mineral rights to the contents of a safe deposit box, some will not take on other types of property, including real estate, cars, and unused gift cards. Check with your state to see what types of real estate you can claim.
Your state may seize your money to pay an outstanding debt
Depending on the state, if you have an outstanding debt to your state or local government, your payment may be forwarded to pay that debt. For example, California allows the Franchise Tax Board to intercept unclaimed real estate funds — as well as state lottery money and tax refunds — to cover debts you owe to a state, county, or city agency.
Claiming money on behalf of a deceased family member
States also allow you to claim property belonging to a deceased relative, and the rules around filing a claim vary from state to state. In general, in addition to providing documents to verify your own identity, you may be required to provide a death certificate, the deceased’s will, and documents proving your relationship with the deceased and your right to claim property.