In the U.S., there are billions of dollars in abandoned or unclaimed money. Most of it is in very small amounts, perhaps not enough for most people to bother with, but some is not. These unclaimed funds can be in the form of bank accounts that lie dormant for years, bonds that are never cashed in, trust fund distributions, refunds of utility deposits, pensions, contents of safe deposit boxes, and more. People forget about it, die without telling anyone about it or writing a will, are unaware they ever had it, etc.
The good news is for a lot of this there is no “statute of limitations” style deadline. If it’s your money, you can claim it even after years or decades. Indeed your descendants can claim it indefinitely into the future.
There are countless websites willing to search the available databases of such unclaimed money for you to see if any of it belongs to you. However, like with much on the Internet, they charge a fee, in the hopes you won’t know that the same information is available for free.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators maintains a website at http://www.missingmoney.com which is free to use. Not all states have been added to their database, but for those that have not, there are links on the site to each such state’s unclaimed property page, which are also free to search.
Searching is simply a matter of entering your name. If you want to narrow it down to a specific state or states, that can be done as well (either on the site, or through the links to the separate state sites).
Even for the states that are in the Missing Money database, it’s not a bad idea to check directly with the state itself as well, if you think there’s a good chance you could have unclaimed money there. Some states only provide partial records to the Missing Money website – only recent or only over a certain dollar amount, for instance.
If you find a listing under your name, each state has its own forms for how to make a claim. For some states you can generate a claim on the site which will automatically be e-mailed to them. With others, you must print the claim and send it in by mail.
To claim your property, most states charge no fee, and some states charge a small fee.
For other countries, you will have to inquire separately, as their records are not contained in the database on the Missing Money website, except for one Canadian province.
Again, don’t use the unscrupulous websites that charge you to search, because they often also charge you to make a claim. Even if you find a match through them, instead of instructing you how to claim the money, they will charge you up to 50% of it to obtain it on your behalf.