Unclaimed Property Types
State Unclaimed Property
First we’d like to distinguish between unclaimed property being held by the states and property being held by counties or government entities. Unclaimed property being held by the states is the one that is discussed on news stories you may have watched. Businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies must report annually (and deliver) property to the State Controller’s Office after there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for a period of generally three (3) years. Sometimes, the owner forgets that an account exists, or moves and cannot be found. In some cases, the owner dies and the heirs have no knowledge of the property. Typically this type of property is one of the following:
– Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
– Abandoned Paychecks
– Deposits with Utility Companies
– Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
– Uncashed cashier’s checks and money orders
– Certificates of deposit
– Matured or terminated insurance policies
– Mineral interests and royalty payments
– Trust funds and escrow accounts
Almost every one of the 50 states has their own website that handles the search and claims of unclaimed property. The states that do not have their own website use MissingMoney.com or Unclaimed.ORG to facilitate their search and claims process.
Your states’ office of unclaimed property holds only the types of property that is required to be turned over to the state. The other types of unclaimed property listed below will not be found by searching your state’s website or MissingMoney.com (this is the biggest reason there is still so much unclaimed property – people search only the states and nowhere else)
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Unclaimed Property in your city/county
A very large portion of unclaimed property is being held by the individual counties and cities. They have their own unclaimed property departments and follow their own laws and timelines. Until if and when they turn the property over to the state, you must look at their unclaimed property lists and not the state, because otherwise, you will not see it.
It is very important that you also search for ‘unclaimed property in your city’ and ‘unclaimed property in your county’ (plus ALL cities and counties where you, your parents and grandparents lived) – These searches can be very time consuming and intimidating, but it can be very worth it.
We know this to be very true because we also own TaxAuctionSurplus.com, which provides daily lists of the excess proceeds generated from the Tax Deed Auctions that happen in the Florida Counties. This excess money is owed to property owners who lose their homes from not paying property taxes. Rarely do these people even know they are entitled to that money and they will never see it show up on the States’ Unclaimed Property website, because the money is held by the county that conducted the auction.
These types of unclaimed properties include, but are not limited to:
- Tax Deed Auction Surplus
- Mortgage Foreclosure Surplus
- Unclaimed Checks and Bonds
- Checking or savings accounts
- Uncashed dividends or payroll checks
- Traveler’s checks
- Trust distributions
- Unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states)
- Certificates of deposit
- Customer overpayments
- Utility security deposits
- Mineral royalty payments
- Contents of safe deposit boxes
Employers/Companies choosing to end fully funded pension plans must distribute all plan benefits to workers and retirees before completely ending the plan.
If someone cannot be found, the plan administrator either purchases an annuity from a private insurer in that person’s name or sends funds to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) for distribution when the participant is found.
Companies often have had difficulty finding an insurance company or financial institution willing to accept the funds on behalf of a missing person and the people who have been missed often have had no idea where to look for their benefits.
FDIC – Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
When a failed financial institution (bank or savings and loan) with federal deposit insurance is liquidated, the FDIC resolution division is responsible for paying:
– Unclaimed insured deposits up to the insurance limit
– Dividends declared on excess deposits over the insurance limit
– Dividends declared on general creditor claims
– Funds distributed to the shareholders of the failed institution
In many instances these funds remain unclaimed because:
– The insured deposit is never claimed from the assuming financial institution
– The dividend check on the excess deposit amount is not cashed
– The dividend check on the general creditor claim is not cashed
– The check to the shareholder is not cashed
– A valid address is not on file and the dividend check has been returned to the FDIC
You or a deceased loved one may own a savings bond, or registered Treasury note or bond that has matured and is no longer earning interest or have HH/H interest that you haven’t received or have Legacy Treasury Direct payments that you haven’t received.
HUD / FHA Refunds
Anyone who bought a home with a/an HUD/FHA loan was required to take out a mortgage insurance policy which protects the lender in case of default/non-payment. This insurance policy was paid at closing and may have cost up to 3% of the loan amount. This expense was often added into the mortgage amount and many homeowners forgot or didn’t realize this was being paid by them.
If the homeowner paid off the loan early, sold the home or refinanced the loan, the mortgage insurance is ended. It is very likely the homeowner is due a prorated refund of this insurance premium.
By the time HUD/FHA is notified that the insurance is to be stopped, the homeowner likely has moved away and any notice of a refund due would have been mailed to the homes address, where the owner no longer resides or collects mail.
Currently there are over 120,000 individuals who are owned over $250,000,000 in unclaimed FHA mortgage insurance refunds.
Credit Union Refunds
When a credit union with federal insurance is liquidated, NCUA’s Asset Management and Assistance Center (AMAC) is responsible for paying the share accounts to the members. Some items may remain unclaimed. Some checks are never cashed; or the credit union’s address information was incomplete. There are also cases when they don’t have a recent address and are unable to receive a forwarding address from the post office.
VA Life Insurance
Unclaimed insurance funds are owed to certain current and former policyholders or their beneficiaries.
The money is owed to individuals whom they have been unable to locate in order to make payment. This money represents death awards, dividend checks and premium refunds that were mailed to policyholders.
These payments were returned to VA by the Post Office because they could not be delivered. VA holds this money until we can locate the policyholder. Some of these payments have been held for years.
There are literally tens of thousands of cases of employees who were once participants in an employer sponsored retirement plan (i.e. 401(K) Plan, Profit Sharing Plan) that have since left their jobs but neglected to take their retirement money with them.
In all cases this retirement plan money is a protected benefit and thus must be held by the employer until the former employee claims the funds. In most cases, employers can no longer locate these former employees in order to pay them out.
Unclaimed Child Support / Alimony
The state where your children live and/or where your divorce settlement or child support settlement was finalized may be holding unclaimed child support owed to you.
IRS Tax Refunds
Some people earn income and may have taxes withheld from their wages but are not required to file a tax return because they have too little income.
In this case, you can claim a refund for the tax that was withheld from your pay. Other workers may not have had any tax withheld but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, but must file a return to claim it.
Were you expecting a refund check but didn’t get it? Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service.
This is the one type of unclaimed money you can only search for yourself. There is actually no online search feature for the ‘Unclaimed Refunds’ described in the first paragraph, you have to file your tax refund that you never filed originally.
For the ‘Undeliverable Refunds described in the 2nd paragraph, you must either call the IRS or look at the ‘Where’s My Refund’ website. However, in order to use ‘Where’s My Refund’ so see if there is an undeliverable check, you have to know your SS#, Filing Status and the exact amount of the refund for the year you filed.
Unpaid Foreign Claims
This type would probably be the least likely of all the above where you would find something in your name, but more likely a relatives name. There are more details below, but a quick summary is there are foreign unclaimed funds and property that is due to U.S. citizens who had their property or money seized or destroyed in various areas:
– Germany Claims
– Libya Claims
– Vietnam Claims
– War Claims
I have personally looked at the lists of persons owed and how much they are owed and some people have tens of thousands of dollars just sitting there unclaimed. I even contacted a few by letter just to know it’s there and told them how to claim it, for free – I did not ask for a thing! Example, Mr. Erwin R. Karger of Sherman Oaks, CA is owed 75,226.18. For moral reasons, I could not just sit by and let that man NOT know about that money. I don’t know his situation and maybe he needed it badly. I spent .50¢ to send him a letter that hopefully changed his life. However, there’s the big issue… what would YOU think if you received a letter like that? Scam, right? That is why I did not ask for a single dime, just freely gave him the information, hoping he would claim it.
The Foreign Claims Awards are certified to the Department of the Treasury for payment by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC), an independent quasi-judicial federal agency, which is administratively a component of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The FCSC determines the validity and valuation of claims of U.S. nationals for loss of property in foreign countries, as authorized by Congress or following government-to-government settlement agreements.
These losses can occur as either a result of nationalization of property by foreign governments or from damage to or loss of property as a result of military operations, or injury to both civilian and military personnel.
The Department of the Treasury’s role is to ensure that the FCSC claimants receive the proper payment amount as authorized in the public law that governs each Foreign Claims Program.
Employee Benefits through the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)
Unlike the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) – You read about this above under the Pensions area – the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) typically gets involved in cases of wrongdoing where a company has misappropriated employees’ pension accounts. The EBSA sometimes even sues to seize retirement money before it disappears
Generally speaking, an abandoned plan is a plan without a responsible plan sponsor or plan administrator. There is no single reason why an employer might abandon its pension plan. In some cases, plan abandonment has occurred when the sponsoring employer ceases to exist by virtue of a formal bankruptcy proceeding. In other cases, abandonment occurs because the plan sponsor has been jailed, died, or simply fled the country.
Unclaimed Bankruptcy Money Owed
Unclaimed funds from Bankruptcy are monies paid by the bankruptcy trustee to the Bankruptcy Clerk, who then is the custodian of those funds until the person entitled to those funds files an application to pay the unclaimed funds to them. In bankruptcy cases that have assets, the trustee or the estate in Chapter 11 cases pays out money he collects from the debtor to creditors who have filed claims in a particular case.
Sometimes, the money paid out by a trustee, always issued as a check, is returned by the post office as undeliverable or the check is not cashed within 90 days. By law, the trustee is required to deposit those funds to the court as unclaimed.
Also, in some cases the trustee pays monies as unclaimed funds to the court where the funds are due the debtor, such as in a dismissed case. In either example, the claimant or debtor did not receive the check and it was returned to the trustee as undeliverable typically because they had moved and did not report their change of address to the court and the trustee.
If you are/were a debtor or creditor in a Bankruptcy, you may be owed money.
Unclaimed Class Action Settlement Funds
Class action settlements fall into a number of broad categories including:
Securities Fraud (insider trading)
Consumer Protection (fraudulent marketing)
Public Health (tobacco)
Antitrust (unfair business practices)
Human Rights (discrimination)
Class action settlements have exceeded $11 billion, yet less than half entitled to a settlement payment file a claim.
Customers (current and former) and stockholders in thousands of companies are entitled to receive unclaimed class action settlement payments. If you’ve moved, physically hold stock certificates, or hold stock in street name and switch brokers, you may not be notified.
Even if a product was used years ago or stock has long since been sold, class members may be eligible to receive cash, credits, shares or distributions in companies like AOL, AT&T, Ford, GM, Dow Corning, Coca Cola, NASDAQ, Publishers Clearing House, Bank of America, MCI, Merrill Lynch, Schwab, Walmart and many others.
You must file a claim to receive your share. Your name will not be on any searchable list online. Because many class actions are filed in federal court, settlement payments to class members will not show up in a State Unclaimed Property Division search and unlike most other unclaimed money there is a time limit by which the settlement must be claimed.