Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Do you have unclaimed money?

States have billions of dollars in unclaimed property. Here’s how to check if you’re owed any of it.

By Money Staff Oct 31, 2013 10:30AM

This post comes from Susan Johnston at partner site U.S. News & World Report.


U.S. News & World Report on MSN MoneySay you open a bank account while you're a college student and let the account go dormant when you move out of state and open a new account elsewhere. Or you leave a job and forget to cash your final check. Or you pay a deposit to your utility company and fail to leave a forwarding address when you move. Or a relative passes away and fails to list stocks or other assets in his or her will. These are just a few scenarios that can lead to unclaimed money, according to Mark A. Paolillo, an abandoned and unclaimed property practice leader at tax services firm Ryan.


Businessman holding money © Image Source, Getty ImagesWhen bank accounts, insurance payouts, pensions or other property go dormant, companies are required to contact the owner at the last known address and, if unsuccessful in reaching the person, turn the property or money over to the state's unclaimed property program. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators estimates that $41.7 billion in unclaimed property sits waiting to be reclaimed.


Many consumers have no idea they could have money waiting for them. Most states have a ratio between 1 in 6 or 1 in 10 people who have unclaimed property, according to Carolyn Atkinson, deputy treasurer for unclaimed property in West Virginia and a past president of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. That's why she encourages consumers to check state online databases, even if they're doubtful that they've let anything go unclaimed. To check, go to and click on each state you've lived in to check for money that is due to you. The majority of states also partner with, a combined database of those states.


The rules on unclaimed property vary by state and depend on the type of property. It often takes three to five years of dormancy for an account to be considered unclaimed. Many states have a Nov. 1 deadline each year for businesses to remit unclaimed property to the state. Typically, the claims process involves submitting a form proving you are the rightful owner or heir of the unclaimed property.


Depending on the type of unclaimed property and the amount, you could receive a check as soon as 30 days after filing a claim form. In Connecticut, for instance, it should take no longer than 90 days to be reunited with your property, according to Connecticut Treasurer Denise Nappier.


There is no fee to file a claim for unclaimed property. However, finder companies offer to reunite heirs or owners with unclaimed property for a fee. In many cases, this is unnecessary because you can file a claim yourself. "For the average person, you shouldn't pay anyone to do that for you," Paolillo says. "There are corporations that are very complex in nature, and it gets a little bit more complicated, so some firms assist in filing claims and doing the research on their behalf." 

Atkinson also advises against using a for-profit finder company. "The ones that are more nefarious are the ones that actually defraud people of their money," she says. Stick with legitimate websites like and because some private locator sites aren't as reputable. "At least every other week we hear about some supposed locator that is actually a scam or fraud," Atkinson says.


In many cases, property can be reclaimed in perpetuity, even by heirs, but once property is liquidated, the value won't increase. "If it's not an asset that is accruing interest, then you're losing money on the value of those assets," Nappier says. "Connecticut law states that some assets do accrue interest, but if you had some expensive artwork and then it was liquidated, the value stops there."


While reclaiming a forgotten bank account or uncashed dividend check may feel like getting a windfall, keeping track of accounts ensures that you won't have to file a claim in the first place. For your own sake and the sake of your heirs, Nappier suggests keeping an inventory of all your assets. "You need to be sure to properly cash all checks for dividends, wages and insurance settlements," she says. "If you stop receiving dividends, contact the company immediately."


Also stay in contact with your bank and other financial institutions to prevent dormancy. Making an online inquiry to your bank or investment accounts may count as a contact. "If you register, log into your account and see what your balance is that would prevent that from being unclaimed," Atkinson says. "If we can get the property back to the owner before it comes to the state, we consider that a success."


More from U.S. News & World Report:



Oct 31, 2013 3:16PM
Oct 31, 2013 4:04PM
i did a search for unclaimed moneys.  after I put my personal info in I was directed to a survey.  the result of the survey is that I would have given numerous companies of all sorts permission to harass me with comp-generated sales calls.  I left the page without completing the "registration" process.  hopefully, since I did not submit the info, maybe I am safe.  why would you give out a promo for this kind of service?
Oct 31, 2013 2:37PM
I though that guy who did those infomercials was in prison.
Oct 31, 2013 9:45PM





















Oct 31, 2013 3:55PM
Everyone should go to every state's unclaimed property site and check for money in their name and the names of their relatives to which they may be entitled.  By that I mean parents that have recently died which you inherited their estates.  The reason you should check all states is because if you have unclaimed property, it isn't necessarily residing in the state you live or opened a bank account.  The rules of unclaimed property make it difficult to find.  For instance if a business has an uncashed check, the rules say that they have to remit it to the state where they incorporated.  That may not be the state where you did business with them.  Now in particular banks may be taking fees every year out of an inactive bank account, but a business may have an uncashed check, and that amount may be the exact amount of a check, and you should look for any money due to you in all fifty states.  Also remember that any gift certificates and gift cards that you didn't use can still be redeemed.  A couple of years ago, they passed a law that these companies could not just absorb them, so you should go down and look into that if you find a paper gift certificate that you never used.  Gift cards are different.  Just because you don't remember using it doesn't mean you didn't because they don't have to get the card when it has been used up.
Oct 31, 2013 3:53PM
We did that once but we went through the state. 
Nov 1, 2013 2:01PM
why do they do this ****, they get you to read an article, then never give you any links to the info...
Oct 31, 2013 8:36PM
Great thought, Richard.  Their financial windfall should have a term limit, particularly when they become doddering old men who have to practically need to be carried to their seat!
Nov 1, 2013 10:07AM
I did a search for unclaimed money on the state sites where I have lived, found I had $$ from an old State Farm car insurance policy in MA.  I have to fill out their paperwork but it's directly from the State Treasurer's while to some this may be a scam, I went to the official state sites and found a few bucks....
Oct 31, 2013 9:39PM

I left ninety six cents in an account in the Nam in 70;  I wonder what that is worth now?  That's

change the HMIC will never get!

Nov 10, 2013 5:13PM
Why do you a$$holes always try to ruin a comment section by putting politics in the mix. Jeese get a damn live or move otta the country!
Nov 1, 2013 12:29PM
My Dad died almost 30 years ago. His name is on the list. But how do you find out if you're entitled to claim it? I'm one of 4 kids, my stepmom got everything when he died and it's for the property my parents sold after their divorce. Besides not knowing if I can claim it, without knowing how much it is for, how do I know if it's worth the bother? Especially if it doesn't end up being mine in the end.
Nov 10, 2013 5:21PM

Every year the newspapers put in the full section your state puts out with the names of people and/or companies that have unclaimed monies, bank security boxes, etc.  I found my grandfather's name in one of the sections years ago. My uncle had to put in the claim (even though I did all the 'leg work') since he was the sole 'survivor' of my grandfather's estate since my mother had passed away many years before. The 'hidden money' happened to be a small LI policy worth approximately $1,500. I never heard from my uncle if he had cashed it in. He never said a word to me and I never asked him; even though we speak to each other often and have seen each other many times since. I assumed he would have kept 1/2 of the money and split the other 1/2 with my 2 brothers and I; but that never happened.  I was told by the person at the office who handles the unclaimed monies, life insurance policies, security boxes, etc., that the items are kept indefinitely. There is no 'end time' to claim any of the items; they are kept perpetually. So..if you see anyone's name that you recognize in these lists-call the person and let them know. We once found hubby's uncle on the list and his children claims a few items that were forgotten.


Its worth poking around a little on the main sites like or state sites.


We found a 45 year old insurance policy that my Father had...


Took some phone calls to the state and mail some paperwork but it was his money and we got it back in the family versus it going to the state. 

Dec 29, 2013 1:23AM
This was the most useless bit of information and to think I just wasted 5 min of my time reading this. Only to find out they do not even tell you where to go to find out if there is money left to you. I laugh since this is like the police departments are telling wanted people that they have won a major prize and the dumb criminals go to the address and get arrested on wanted charges. they do tell you to check out different states where you were living or born. or and missing
Dec 28, 2013 6:06PM
  It states in the article to go to and to click on the state.
Dec 6, 2013 11:54AM
My father received unclaimed money from the state of Michigan for his fathers old insurance policy. Does he have to share what he found with his siblings?
Dec 4, 2013 10:18AM
i need some that can stand in for me has next of kin...... it is an unclaimed fund in name of my grandma but my dad is late...
Nov 26, 2013 3:42PM
My grandmother's name is listed but the process to get the money is insane.  My aunt tried and the things required by the state of Ohio would have required have required hiring a lawyer.  The cost is not worth the little bit of money returned.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.