Everyone knows the feeling of finding a ten dollar bill in the pocket of a coat they haven’t worn for awhile. It’s like finding free money. Although it’s not really free because it already belongs to you. Still, it’s a great feeling. Now imagine if you came across $50, $100, or even $1,000 that belongs to you but you didn’t know it was there. That’s what can happen when you find unclaimed money in your name. It’s waiting for you – all you need to do is find it and claim it.
Where Does Unclaimed Money Come From?
Unclaimed money can come from a number of sources. It is typically money left in an old bank account or a credit from an old credit card that never made it to you. You may have changed bank accounts and had some money left in your old one that the bank tried to send to you but you left no forwarding address. It could be an overpayment to a utility company that was returned to you or a payout from an insurance policy or liability claim. It could even be money left to you by a deceased relative.
Any money that goes unclaimed because you were not available to receive it is turned over to the state to hold on your behalf until you claim it. Depending on the state, your unclaimed money is held for a certain period of time until it is turned over to the state treasury. Some states hold the money for many years.
How to Claim Unclaimed Money
1. Check the Web
Fortunately, it’s very easy to find out if you are the owner of any unclaimed money or property. You can go directly to your state’s website and search for the department that handles unclaimed property, or you can go on some websites that can do the search for you. The website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators appears to be the most comprehensive and thorough in its search capabilities.
First you click on a particular state’s website for finding and claiming unclaimed property. All you need to do is provide your full name and a city. If you moved around a lot, you could leave the name of the city blank and it will come up with results for anything with your name throughout the state.
2. Complete the Claim Form
Most states require you to print out a claim form, fill it out, and provide copies of documentation to verify your identity. Depending on the type of property, you may be required to have your signature notarized. Once your claim is received by mail, it can take from two weeks to several months to receive your property in the mail.
Sixteen states accept online claims, including Alaska, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia. Depending on the state, if the value of the unclaimed property exceeds a certain amount (i.e., $5,000 in California), you may be required to complete a physical claim form and provide additional documentation. You may be required to provide your birth date, Social Security number, and/or driver’s license number to verify your identity.
3. Wait for Your Check
The next step is to wait for your money to arrive. Keep a copy of your claim receipt (if you file online) or claim form in the event that your money doesn’t show up. Remember, it can take several months for a claim to be processed. But heck, you’ve been without this money for a while – what’s a few extra months?