How to Find and Claim Your Family’s Forgotten Belongings

I read an article about online tools that can help people track down lost or forgotten money left behind by deceased loved ones. Can you help explain more?

Forgotten or lost money is very common in the United States. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, billions of dollars in unclaimed funds are waiting to be claimed from state treasuries and other agencies.

These unclaimed funds come either from inactive accounts or from accounts whose owners or heirs cannot be found. Unclaimed funds may include lost or forgotten savings or checking accounts, stocks, utility deposits, tax refunds, life insurance policy proceeds, uncollected dividends, matured savings bonds and much more.

This usually happens because the owner changed address or name, the owner died and the estate was unaware of the money, or the heirs could not be located. By law, businesses and financial institutions that cannot find the owner or their next of kin within two to five years must return the property to the state, where it is held indefinitely.

Where to look

About 10% of all Americans have unclaimed money waiting to be found, so it’s very possible that you have some too. To start your search, go to Unclaimed.orgwhich contains links to all state programs that will allow you to search state benefits online for free.

Be sure to check every state in which you have lived, worked, or done business. Also be sure to check under your maiden name (if applicable), and if you have a frequently misspelled name, check for those misspellings as well. Using a first initial and last name is also encouraged to make sure everything shows up. Each state can tell you right away if there is unclaimed money, and how to get it back.

Look here too

In addition to state treasuries, here are additional resources that can help you track down unclaimed money that may have been overlooked.

Forgotten retirement benefits: To search for lost or forgotten 401(k) funds that your parents may have left with a former employer, use the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits website. To search for lost pension benefits, use Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s trust plan search tool at PBGC.gov/search-trusteed-plans.

Lost life insurance: To locate a lost or forgotten life insurance policy, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an insurance regulatory support organization, offers a free policy locator service.

Non-reimbursed savings bonds: It is very common for people to lose track of US savings bonds, as they are often given to children as gifts and then forgotten about before the bonds reach maturity. The United States Department of the Treasury offers an online search tool at TreasuryHunt.gov to find matured, uncashed savings bonds that are over 30 years old and no longer paying interest.

Federal tax refunds: Each year, thousands of refund checks totaling millions of dollars are returned to the IRS by the post office. To search for lost federal tax refund checks, go to IRS.gov/refunds or call 1-800-829-1954.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, regular contributor to NBC’s “Today Show” and author of “The Savvy Living.” All links in this article are offered as a service and not an endorsed product. These articles are offered as a useful and informative service and may not always reflect the official position of this organization on certain topics.

Once you have found the money, then comes what to do with it. The American Legion’s Planned Giving Program is a way to establish your legacy of support for the organization while meeting your current financial needs. To learn more about the process and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit from, go to legion.org/plannedgiving.

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