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Claim your unclaimed property

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

It takes mere minutes to check and see if you are entitled to cash or other valuables being held by the state. And it’s time well spent.

  • As many as one in ten Americans has unclaimed property sitting with a state treasurer’s office.
  • There is a total of at least $32.877 billion in assets just waiting to be claimed.
  • The value of the average account returned is high. For example, in the state of Missouri, the average account returned is $365.
  • The most valuable item in Alabama’s unclaimed inventory is worth more than $511,000.

Checking for unclaimed property is not only fast, but it’s easy as well. How easy is it? I recently gave eight of my coworkers three minutes each to search for unclaimed property. While none of them had money of their own to claim, three of my coworkers were surprised to find the names of immediate family members on the list.

Unclaimed property could be stocks, bonds, dividend checks, CDs, expired gift certificates, and items left in a safe deposit box. It could also be insurance benefits, utility deposits, uncashed checks, and items held by the police as stolen property. Unclaimed property laws vary from state to state. Most states consider property to be abandoned after three to five years of inactivity. At that time, companies are required to turn funds over to the state to try and locate you.

One common way people lose track of their assets is when they move and forget to give forwarding addresses to their financial institutions. States do quite a bit to try and find property owners including taking out full page ads, sending letters, doing media interviews (check out this episode of the Antique’s Roadshow), and even setting up booths at State Fairs. Until claimed, the property is held in trust. Some states are putting the interest earned from the trust to good use. For example, all interest earned from the trust in Colorado supports a health program for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

In most states, there is no time limit on when you can collect. Some types of assets such as stocks and bonds are often sold and the proceeds are held until the owner claims them. In the case of safety deposit boxes, some states will retrieve items from the boxes and sell them at auction. If the owner ever claims the property, they will be given the proceeds. States who have unclaimed property on eBay include Pennsylvania and Texas.

There should be no (or very low) charge to reclaim your property, so think twice before paying someone a fee to collect your valuables for you. To make your claim, you will have to show proof of identity and proof that ties you to the valuables being claimed.

To start your free search for property that might be yours, visit www.Unclaimed.org and www.MissingMoney.com. Let me know if you find or have found a treasure!

 

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Protecting your loved ones from financial crisis

 

With credit becoming more difficult to obtain and gas prices soaring, don’t be surprised if a friend or family member springs that frightening question: “Can I borrow some money?” According to a Rockefeller Foundation Poll, 58 percent of 18-to 29-year-old respondents have to borrow money from a friend or relative to meet living expenses.

Although borrowing money is usually done with the intention of paying the lender back, this does not always happen. Loaning money to family and friends can put you in the unfortunate situation of being left without your money and possibly your relationship.

Before agreeing to lend money to your friends and relatives, openly communicate to them your concerns and expectations. Remember, you should only lend money you feel confident will be paid back.

Understand financial limits

Only agree to loan money you can afford to lend. List all your necessary living expenses and make sure those items have been paid prior to agreeing to lend money. You don’t want to find yourself in the same situation as your friend or relative who needed to borrow money from you.

Put it in writing

If you choose to lend someone money, treat the personal loan like you would any other business matter. Discuss the terms of the agreement and put the details in writing. Be sure to list both parties involved, the interest rate, due dates, payment amounts and penalty for late or missed payments. Don’t feel bad about asking to formalize the agreement – it may help protect your friendship later. If your friend doesn’t want to put everything in writing, then don’t agree to lend the money.

Don’t abuse power

Once you’ve lent the money, do not assume a position of power by expecting special treatment from the borrower. Also, once the money has been lent, don’t try to control how it is spent. Being too authoritative could damage your relationship.

Prepare for the worst

Make sure you are comfortable with attempting to collect on the debt if necessary. Document the date and time and save copies of any letters or phone calls, and make sure you make note of all the responses to your attempts. Your records may be necessary if you plan to take the matter to court, or if you plan to write the debt off as non-business bad debt on your next tax return.

If you still aren’t sure whether you should agree to a loan, remember this famous quote from Shakespeare: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.”


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Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling, and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan, and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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