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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Time to Plan a Treasury Hunt


Treasurer offices across the United States have been left holding the bag; the bag with your unclaimed property in it! Each year, millions of dollars of unclaimed or abandoned property is turned over to state treasurer offices across the country. To date, it is estimated that over $32 billion of unclaimed property is waiting to be found. In Illinois, our treasurer's office has been going around the state educating the public and in many cases helping them find their unclaimed money.

I usually go to Illinois' website, CashDash and check to see if I or anyone I know has unclaimed money. Recently, after checking in all the names I may have used, I discovered that I had a missing rebate from a utility company. I also found money for several family members and friends. When I told others about what I had done, some were skeptical and thought that it may be a set up for bill collectors to locate them. So I decided, maybe it would be a good idea to explain what unclaimed or abandoned property means.

Unclaimed property, also referred to as abandoned property, refers to accounts where a financial institution or company has been unable to reach the owner of the property for a year or more. To assist, each state has an unclaimed property statute which prevents your property from going back to the company just because they have lost contact with you. "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," according to the unclaimed property website.

Typical unclaimed property might include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks, bonds or mutual funds
  • Uncashed checks (payroll, interest, dividends, tax refunds, etc.)
  • Proceeds from life insurance policies
  • Overpayments or security deposits, or refunds on utility accounts
  • Contents of safe deposit boxes

State treasurers' offices and officials have made great strides to locate property owners through public service announcements and awareness campaigns, website efforts, and much more. To aid in this effort, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has established a website which makes it easier to search for your unclaimed property by providing a link to state databases all over the country. If you'd like to search for property for yourself or someone you know, visit their website at www.unclaimed.org and at a commercial website that they endorse www.missingmoney.com . Use of both websites is free to the public.

How much does it cost to get unclaimed property returned?

Generally, there are no fees or nominal fees associated with reclaiming your lost property. There are businesses that have been formed around locating lost property. If someone contacts you about paying a fee for the return of your lost property, do not respond to them. If you have lost property, you can visit one of the websites previously mentioned to claim your lost property without paying a fee other than the ones that might be assessed by your state's unclaimed property division.

How can you keep your property from being lost in the future?

Most of the time, property goes unclaimed because the company no longer knows how to locate the appropriate owner. To prevent this from happening to you, you should:

  • Notify your financial institutions and other companies you do business with each time you have a change of address or change of name;
  • Cash payroll, refund, interest and dividend checks in a timely manner;
  • Keep a record of the contents of your safe deposit boxes and give a trusted family member or friend an extra key; and
  • Create a will to outline how property should be distributed.

So, has all of this made you think that you may have some missing money out there? If so, visit one or both of the websites mentioned, you might be surprised by what you find. Happy hunting. Until we talk again...



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