Guest post by Lee Reams II
According to a recent study reported on by CNBC, states across the country are currently holding onto roughly $41.7 billion in unclaimed assets — right now. This number is a dramatic increase of the $32.8 billion number that was estimated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators just a few years prior, in 2010.
Unclaimed assets can come from a wide variety of places, all of which contribute to the deep layer of confusion about the situation. These unclaimed assets can be found in uncashed payroll checks, life insurance payouts that were forgotten about for years after a loved one passed away, bank accounts that remained dormant for long enough for the bank to list them as “unclaimed” — even stock splits. The list goes on and on. And nearly $2 billion in lottery prizes go unclaimed every year, according to another report by CNN Money.
This is where unclaimed assets like money and property come from. Why they remain unclaimed for so long has to do with a few different factors.
The Case of the Unclaimed Funds
For starters, if a loved one suddenly dies and you had no idea they had an active account with X, Y or Z bank, you wouldn’t know to claim it in the first place. Secondly, a lot of people simply assume that they don’t have anything to claim — but even experts agree that it is very, very easy for money, in particular, to wind up under the control of the state when someone isn’t paying attention.
Finally, even if you DO believe that you have unclaimed funds or property out there somewhere, many people assume that the process they have to go through to gain control of those assets is a lengthy and expensive one. In other words, it’s not worth the trouble.
It’s that final myth that it is incredibly important to shatter, both for now and for all time.
In truth, it’s incredibly easy to find out if you have unclaimed funds and property and to get control of what is rightfully yours. Not only that, but you can do it without spending so much as a dime. Better yet, you can do it largely over the internet from the comfort of your own home. You just have to keep a few key things in mind, both about where you choose to begin your search and exactly what it is that you’re looking for.
Getting Back What Is Rightfully Yours
Your search for unclaimed money, in particular, will start in one of a few different places, depending on exactly what type of funds you’re looking for. Below are just a few of the many available options out there, all of which can be used for free:
- If you suspect that you may be owed back wages from a previous employer that you no longer work for, visit the Wage and Hour Division’s database for more information. As a part of the United States Department of Labor, this allows you to search for your name to see if there is any money waiting for you to take control of.
- Along the same lines, if you think that you still have money by way of a pension plan from a former employer (either a company that has long since ceased to exist or that ended a previously defined plan), you can search specifically for this type of unclaimed money here.
- Note that if you’re specifically looking for an unclaimed 401(k) plan, you can do so by way of the “Search” function on the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits.
- If you think that you are owed money by way of an unclaimed insurance fund from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, you can visit their website and search directly. This database contains information both about current and former policyholders as well as any of their beneficiaries that may be applicable.
- If you think that you may have been owed a refund from the IRS, but it never arrived in the mail or your bank account, chances are you’re not imagining things. Visit the official website of the IRS and use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool to instantly locate any and all unclaimed funds on your behalf for free. This can help clue you in on the problem that prevented you from getting those funds in the first place, allowing you to quickly fix the problem.
As a tip, be sure to search for both your name and the names of any loved ones who have recently passed away. If you can prove that you are in charge of someone’s estate (as would be the case with a recently deceased mother or father, for example), you can still get control of those funds and disburse them in accordance to any will or other documents that may still be valid.
Note that if you’re looking for an unclaimed property that is now under the control of your state, one of the absolute best ways to begin that search involves heading over to MissingMoney.com. This will help you easily locate the contact information for the unclaimed property department in either the state you live in or a state you lived in previously, which will allow you to get to the root of the matter quickly.
As the name suggests, you can also use MissingMoney.com as yet another source for searching for unclaimed general funds in your state that may have been missed through other means.
As you can see, if you’re on the hunt for unclaimed money, property or other assets that you feel you may be entitled to, you certainly aren’t without your options. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the total value of unclaimed assets continues to rise, year after year. So even if you think that you have everything accounted for and that you couldn’t possibly have anything out there waiting to be claimed, it’s in your own best interests to check anyway. It only takes a couple of minutes, it’s totally free of charge and you truly never know what you might find.
Lee is the founder and CEO of ClientWhys, Inc., a marketing automation software developer for tax and accounting professionals. Lee is an active blogger and speaker, with articles and interviews published in Forbes, Huffington Post, Fit Small Business, Accounting Today, TaxBuzz, CountingWorks and many more. Lee loves to write about taxes and small business issues. He believes that informed taxpayers and business owners are more likely to find successful financial outcomes.