With years under our belts, baby boomers have had many opportunities to lose and forget about money and other property that belonged to them. This is officially called “unclaimed property” by federal and state government. It makes sense at our age to find out if we have any unclaimed property to claim. How do we find it?
What is Unclaimed Property?
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
You can see that this definition covers a lot of territory. There are many intangible property categories that could apply to lots of folks who have been living, working, buying, and selling for 45 years or more. That’s us, the baby boomers. As just one example, how many of us have lost Traveler’s Checks over the years and never bothered to replace them?
Forgetting about a small, neglected bank account or utility deposit can also be a problem. Christmas Clubs, insurance policies, and savings accounts set-up for our children when they were young are also candidates for creating unclaimed money or property.
Finding and Claiming Unclaimed Money and Property
All state governments have laws that impose obligations on certain businesses to attempt to locate the owners of money and property that has been abandoned or unclaimed. Typically that means sending a notice to the last known address of the owner. If you – the owner – have moved, you might never receive the notice.
In the case of owners who have lost contact with the business, unclaimed property laws do not allow the business to automatically claim the property or money as its own. Instead, the states have set up unclaimed property administrators and databases to allow folks like us to search for property that may belong to us.
There are two excellent paths for an individual to search online for unclaimed or abandoned property that should be returned to them.
The first site is the unclaimed property search engine sponsored by the NAUPA. This online abandoned property search tool links to the unclaimed property databases maintained by the various states. You can select a state and then enter your name and other information about specific types of property that you may be looking for.
The other, more comprehensive unclaimed property search engine is found at MissingMoney.com. This site is also sponsored by NAUPA as well as most states and Canadian provinces. It allows you to simultaneously search the unclaimed property databases of multiple states or provinces. Not all states are participating but more are joining.
MissingMoney says that its database includes records of the following:
- Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
- Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
- Uncashed checks and wages
- Insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds
- Utility deposits, escrow accounts
There are lots of opportunities in that list for baby boomers who have been around the financial block a few times.