State treasuries and other agencies are holding more than $40 billion in unclaimed assets, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). Some of it could be yours.
Unclaimed assets, often from accounts that have been inactive for a certain period of time, can include checking and savings, payroll checks, utility deposits and tax refunds. They may also include stock certificates, certificates of deposit, insurance benefits, pension payments and safe-deposit-box contents.
The Unclaimed Property Clearinghouse. Whether you’re just curious or you suspect that you or someone in your family has missing assets, the best place to start your treasure hunt is Missingmoney.com. The national database is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), as well as 39 U.S. states. You just need to enter a last name and state to start your nationwide search.
Your State’s Unclaimed Property Program. For a more targeted search, you can try NAUPA’s www.unclaimed.org. The site connects you directly to each state’s program. It also includes links to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and a few Canadian provinces. The specific search can help you avoid getting overwhelmed by MissingMoney’s nationwide results, especially if you have a common name. Just be sure to check all the states in which you’ve ever lived.
Your Old Insurance Policy. Over the past decade, some major insurers, such as John Hancock, MetLife and Prudential, have demutualized. That is, they converted from mutual life insurance companies, owned by their policyholders, into publicly traded firms, owned by shareholders. In this process, the firms give their policyholders shares of stock or cash. The size of the payout depends on the face value of the policy, the length of time the policy has been in force, and the total amount of premiums paid.
However, many of the insurers couldn’t find policyowners. If you suspect that you or family members might be affected, contact the insurance company and ask about the possibility of missing demutualization money. The firm may have already surrendered the unclaimed assets to the state, in which case you can try tracking it down via Missingmoney.com or www.unclaimed.org.
Your Forgotten Stock Portfolio. Another common missing asset, old stock certificates, may be harder to track down. If you have the CUSIP number—an identification number used for stocks and bonds—call your broker and find out the value of the security. If you don’t have the CUSIP number but know the name of the company, try the investor-relations department of the firm and ask the registrar to help you.
If the company already surrendered your unclaimed assets to the state—if it failed to locate you after it was acquired, for example—again you can check for the funds through Missingmoney.com or http://www.unclaimed.org. Just be sure to look for your name in three states: where you lived at the time of purchasing the stock, where the company was based and where it was incorporated.
Your Old Bank. If your bank or financial institution closed and you didn’t claim the funds in your account, you still might be able to get your money. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has a list of unclaimed insured deposits at firms that were shut between 1989 and 1993. Post-1993 bank assets go directly to state treasuries.
Using the FDIC’s BankFind tool, you can also trace what became of the old bank—for example, if it was absorbed by an existing financial institution that you can contact.
Credit Karma. Credit Karma, a consumer website that offers free credit scores and tax preparation, recently launched a tool that lets you search for unclaimed property in 20 states. The company plans to add more states; if you click on one that’s not included in the program, you’ll be directed to that state’s own unclaimed-property website.
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You don’t have to be a member of Credit Karma to use the tool. However, if you become a member, Credit Karma will notify you of future unclaimed-property reports that match your profile. Membership is free; Credit Karma makes money when you sign up for recommended products, such as credit cards and car loans.