What is Unclaimed Property
Fast Facts About Unclaimed Property
•Every U.S. state, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands - and Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada have unclaimed property programs that actively and continuously find owners of lost and forgotten assets.
•Unclaimed property laws have been around since at the 1930s, but have become much broader and more enforced in the last 25 years. Unclaimed property is one of the original consumer protection programs.
• 2.5 million claims totaling $2.25 billion returned to rightful owners in FY2011 as a result of state unclaimed property program efforts. Amount of average claim, $892
•$41.7 billion waiting to be returned by state unclaimed property programs.
•Claims can be made into perpetuity in most cases - even by heirs.
Billions of dollars have been lost. Could some of it be yours?
NAUPA is the association of the state unclaimed property programs, but the databases are located and maintained by each state, not NAUPA.
Answers to Questions about Unclaimed Property
What is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
What happens to these accounts that have no activity?
Acting in the best interest of consumers, each state has enacted an unclaimed property statute that protects your funds from reverting back to the company if you have lost contact with them. These laws instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who will then make a diligent effort to find you or your heirs. Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner.
How do states try to return this money?
The state treasurers and other officials who administer the unclaimed property programs have developed many powerful and effective methods to locate owners including the use of websites, cross-checking public data, staging thousands of awareness events at state fairs and even shopping malls, and developing a national database, MissingMoney.com. The methods work as tens of millions of potential lost owners inquire annually resulting in this vital consumer protection program returning money to people at a rate approaching two billion dollars annually.
How do I begin my free search?
Companies are required by law to send funds from lost accounts to the state of the owner's last known address. That means you could potentially have unclaimed property in every state that you have resided. You might want to begin your search on MissingMoney, a Web site officially endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) containing the official collective records from most state unclaimed property programs. NAUPA will link you to every state unclaimed property program Web site where you can search. Both sites are free.
If searching is free, why do I receive notices that there is a charge to search?
Several business firms have used the states' freedom of information acts to obtain owner information. These firms notify individuals that they will conduct a search for unclaimed property in their name for a fee. Many states do not even provide complete records to these firms to protect your privacy. The bottom line is that you may pay them to search if you wish, but all the information is accessible free of charge by searching the state databases or MissingMoney, or by contacting any state unclaimed property office.
I have received a notice that property has been found, but there is a fee to obtain it.
There are many businesses, sometimes called finders or locators, which find legitimate lost property for owners and offer to inform them of how to obtain it for a fee, usually a percentage of the total (some states limit the fee to 10 percent). Sometimes, companies will hire these firms to find you before they turn the funds over to the state. Ultimately the finder will ask you to sign a contract. The majority of firms that provide these services work within the law, but there are also many unclaimed property scams across the United States. Before signing any contract from a firm of this type, we recommend that you be cautious and contact the unclaimed property office in your state for more information.
How do I keep my property from becoming lost in the future?
Remember, property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. For security reasons, most financial institutions do not forward mail. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits.
•Cash all checks for dividends, wages, and insurance settlements without delay.
•Respond to requests for confirmation of account balances and stockholder proxies.
•If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.
•Finally, prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.
How to Solve Mysteries of Old Bank Accounts or Lost Safe Deposit Boxes
Q: Where does the unclaimed property come from?
A:The unclaimed funds that the Society holds can come from the following areas:
credit union accounts
intestate estates (death without a will and next of kin cannot be located)
overpaid debt collections
real estate deposits
Q: Is there a time limit in which to make a claim?
A: Unclaimed property is always available to its rightful owner. For example, we have several accounts that date back to the late 1800s. If someone can prove ownership, we return their property. Please note that the longer a property goes unclaimed the harder it could be for the individual to provide the required evidence.
Q: Will I receive earned interest with my property?
A: No, you will not receive interest earned on your property. Interest is not paid to claimants under the terms of the Unclaimed Property Act.
Q: Do you charge a fee when I claim my money?
A: No, we do not charge a fee for our services.
Q: Are you open to the public?
A: Our office is not open to the public. Please contact us by phone, fax, mail or email.
Q: How can I find out what kind of property/land you have?
A: When we refer to "property" we always mean money; we do not hold any land or any other material property.
Q: Are you part of the Government?
A: In April 2003 the Province of British Columbia entered into an agreement with the Vancouver Foundation for the delivery of these services. The services are provided through the BC Unclaimed Property Society and controlled by the Foundation. The Province of BC retains the governance role.
Q: Does each province have an Unclaimed Property Society?
A: No, the Unclaimed Property Society is unique to British Columbia. Alberta, Quebec and Ontario have Unclaimed Property departments within their provincial government.
Q: How do you locate people?
A: The Society has access to ICBC, Healthnet and BC Online. These sites provide us with only an address, which we use to try and connect unclaimed property with rightful owners.
Q: If I received a letter from you, does that mean you have money that is mine?
A: Not always. When we search for people, we are looking for anyone with the same name as the name we have on file. It is up to the individual to provide the required ID and information to prove they are the same person listed in our database.
Q: What type of evidence is required to make a claim?
A: One piece of evidence which matches the owner to the property, plus two pieces of government issued personal identification. For unclaimed court funds the Society requires a certified true copy of a court order created within the past six months. There are circumstances where the Society may need to request additional evidence.
How do I find out the dollar value of my property?
A: Due to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act we cannot release the dollar value. In order to appear on our website, the unclaimed property value is $50 or greater. Once entitlement is confirmed, you will be advised of the exact amount.