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What is Unclaimed Money?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Roughly one-fifth of the world's stock of gold - worth over $200 billion USD - is stored under the streets of London.  more...

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Unclaimed money is cash that has not been delivered to the owner. In most cases, the failure to deliver the money is due to inaccurate contact information for the owner of the account where the money resides. After a period of time, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions turn all unclaimed money over to government agencies. These agencies in turn retain the funds under the name of the owner for a period of time. If the money is never claimed, the cash eventually is cleared for use by the government.

In the United States, unclaimed money is usually routed to a state level Unclaimed Property department or division. The state level entity maintains a database of all unclaimed money and other properties found in safe deposit boxes, apparently abandoned bank accounts, and other funds that remain unclaimed for some reason. Each of these state Unclaimed Property entities maintain unclaimed money databases and provide some type of public access.

In order to look for missing money, individuals usually have two approaches. First, the individual can submit a written application to the state Unclaimed Property department, asking for them to search for any unclaimed money related to specific names. The second option is to access an online database and conduct the search personally. Most databases of this type allow searches by last names and variations of first names. Possible matches are returned, and most systems allow the user to further limit the perimeters of the search.

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Should the unclaimed money search yield results, the individual must take steps to file a formal claim. As part of the claim process, the individual must present documented proof that he or she is entitled to the unclaimed money. If the unclaimed money is held under the name of the person submitting the request, verification of related documents such as a driver’s license, government issued identification card or a Social Security number is often helpful. In cases where the claimant is a spouse or child of the owner of record of the unclaimed money, documents establishing the legality of the relationship must also be presented and verified.

Many states attempt to make it easy for find unclaimed money through online database searches. In recent years, this has made it possible to forward missing money to verified claimants in a fraction of the time needed in years past. While a few states charge a modest fee for processing the verified claim, more commonly there is no charge associated with claiming the money at all.

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