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.