Cash Smarter

October 2, 2017  by: Aaron Crowe

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

Finding a dime on the sidewalk or a $10 bill stuffed in an old coat pocket can add a smile to your day. They’re both found money, possibly unclaimed money. While the dime won’t buy you much, it could be a sign of good luck.

But there are other ways to come upon good luck.

Unclaimed assets may be sitting somewhere in your name, waiting for you to find and claim them. With some simple online searches, you can look for unclaimed money in seconds and possibly find a windfall.

Unclaimed money can also come from a family member who has died. They may have a life insurance policy, retirement benefit and other policies you may not know about that are legally yours as an heir.

Here are some resources to finding missing, unclaimed money:

Where to start looking for unclaimed money

Two websites offer free, multi-state searches for unclaimed property:

  • National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA.
  • Missing Money, a service endorsed by NAUPA.

Both are simple to use. You only enter your first and last name, and state where you live, and a free governmental search for missing money in your name is done in seconds.

Missing Money is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. They include bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, unwashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CDs, utility deposits and escrow accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has a free database to search for bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in your name or the name of a loved one who has died.

State treasurer

Thirty-nine U.S. states participate in the NAUPA databases. For those that don’t check your state’s unclaimed property list at your state Treasurer’s Office. Even if your state is in the NAUPA database, it can’t hurt to search your state’s website individually.

California’s Controller Office has a search engine for unclaimed property, as does Illinois’ State Treasurer.

If you can’t find an unclaimed property registry on your state website, call your State Treasurer’s office and ask.

Check paper statements

Those overstuffed filing cabinets and drawers that you or a relative have been meaning to organize for years may be full of old paper statements from banks, life insurance companies and other businesses that may be holding money owed to you.

Anything that was reported to the IRS on a tax form could be an area where unclaimed money could be hiding.

Also be on the lookout for pay stubs, pension deduction and 401(k) contributions. They may show if a former employee owes a benefit.

An old pension plan

If your former employee offered a pension plan but the company has gone out of business, you may have unclaimed pension benefits waiting for you.

Contact your former employer if you can find it. The company should also be looking for you. If it can’t find you, the pension money goes to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government agency that protects retirement income.

Go to the PBGC’s unclaimed pensions database to see if you’re on its list from your former employer or as a beneficiary.

Social Security

Check with the Social Security Administration about survivors benefits and to verify earnings records and ensure the decedent received the maximum earned.  Also, the estate is entitled to a $250 death benefit.

An earnings record can be downloaded at the agency’s website. A fee is required.

Life insurance policy

There isn’t a national database of life insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute has 12 ways to make finding life insurance documents for a deceased relative easier.

They include searching for insurance related documents, contacting financial advisors, contacting previous employers, and contacting state insurance departments, such as through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Life Insurance Company Location System.

Again, while there isn’t a national database of life insurance policies, there is one for applications processed since Jan. 1, 1996. There is no fee for each search.

Life insurance companies may also help beneficiaries find unclaimed policies. MetLIfe offers such help on its website.

Veterans

Surviving spouses and children of deceased military service members and veterans can get death benefits and pensions through the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA.

The VA has an application for obtaining these benefits.

Savings bonds

While the FDIC and the Missing Money databases listed at top can help you find old bank accounts, another common form of unclaimed money are savings bonds.

Chances are that the savings bonds your grandparents gave you as a child have matured and are ready to cash in. If you can’t find them, submit Fiscal Service Form 1048 to the Treasury Department, where you can also make claims for lost or destroyed U.S. savings bonds.

Finding unclaimed money can be a lot of work, though the internet can make it a lot easier than it used to be. Start your search and with a little luck, you may find some.

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