Finding and Claiming Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives

Unclaimed Assets

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators reports that state governments returned over 2.8 billion in unclaimed money to rightful owners in just the past year. If you have daydreamed about inheriting money from a long-lost relative, you may be in for a surprise. Whether it’s expected or not, receiving an inheritance would be a welcome financial boost for the beneficiaries. Unclaimed money from deceased relatives is much more common than most people think. You might be surprised to discover that you may be entitled to a missing inheritance you didn’t know about as one of the rightful heirs.

One example of unclaimed money from deceased relatives occurred back in June 2011 when one family in West Virginia received nearly $15,000 in unclaimed money from the wife’s mother who had lost track of it in the final years of her life and then left behind when she died. This type of situation happens all the time. There are billions of dollars of unclaimed property being held by major companies and the government that may have been left from parents for beneficiaries and is now considered abandoned.

You can claim unclaimed money from deceased relatives, but there are a few conditions to be aware of. First, you must be able to identify that unclaimed money in the name of your deceased relative exists. Second, you must verify that you are the legal heir and are entitled to this unclaimed money.

It’s easy to find out if a deceased relative left unclaimed money behind. Perform an Unclaimed Property Search. Each state comptroller’s office provides this data, and it’s free of charge. It is also essential to determine your eligibility to inherit any unclaimed money that you might find from deceased relatives. Each state has an unclaimed property office. Typically, the state governments will require that you file an electronic claim along with additional documentation to help prove that you are entitled to claim the unclaimed property as one of the legal heirs.

Types of unclaimed property.

Missing Money

The term unclaimed property is a misnomer. Unclaimed money from deceased relatives can be any number of valuable assets you might be able to claim from a family member. Types of unclaimed property could be:

What Happens to Unclaimed Money

As you can see from the list above, there is a vast array of financial assets and property that you could accumulate in your lifetime. When someone is planning their estate, they try to be as thorough as possible. However, people make mistakes, and it’s only human to overlook things from time to time, and sometimes they forget about an asset that slipped through the cracks. Intestacy is also a typical scenario when a person dies and doesn’t have an estate plan, which may result in unclaimed inheritance money.

The court at that time does the best job they can to identify and notify the descendants of assets they may be entitled to and distribute them per the state’s Interstate Commission or secession rule. Sometimes, however, some assets of an unclaimed inheritance can still go undetected and unclaimed regardless of how thorough the discovery process may be.

In some cases, the court fails to identify an heir. One example is when the family members are all predeceased before the owner dies. If the money goes unclaimed, several things will happen. First, state law requires the holding companies of the abandoned asset for a limited time to make reasonable attempts to contact the rightful owner. In most instances, the state determines how long the company must do this and what qualifies as a good attempt of contact. for example, California has a time limit of three years. After this time elapses, the asset is considered escheated and is turned over to the state.

 Once the state holds the asset or property, the state comptroller will hold on to the funds for a defined period, thus allowing any potential heir to find and file a claim for the unclaimed money. If the property remains unclaimed after the state’s holding period concludes, the assets are liquidated and absorbed by the state. Each state has different rules regarding this process.


How to claim unclaimed money

If by chance, you happen to be an individual who finds unclaimed money and you are sure that you are the rightful heir to the funds, the time to file a claim is now. You can file a claim through the comptroller’s office of the state that holds the asset or property. You will need to follow that office’s instructions on filing to claim unclaimed money from deceased relatives. Here is a general idea of documents you may be required to submit with your claim when you find unclaimed money:

How to find unclaimed property

If you are wondering exactly how one finds unclaimed money from deceased relatives, the process is straightforward. The internet is an excellent place to start; you can conduct free searches by the state on, the website managed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). It would also be a good idea to conduct nationwide searches via the free website which NAUPA endorses. Given that each state has different unclaimed property laws, it is best to consult the state comptroller’s website to find any specific rules.

Don’t waste time with finder firms.

Finder firms, in general, are a scam. Typically, the firm finds you and sends you a notification. For instance, you might receive a postcard or email claiming that they have discovered assets or property you inherited. They then promise to divulge the information and help you claim the property for a small fee. If you do send them a check, you will typically receive a list of websites you can search to see if you have any unclaimed property entitled to you.

Basically, it’s the same list of free websites found in this article. That is usually where their assistance ends, and you have paid for something that is free. It’s easy to find forgotten property thanks to the increasing number of databases. In most cases, it makes sense to do the research yourself. Just remember, if you must pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam; however, an excellent rule to follow is this. If the amount of the asset is more than $1000.00, it may be worth it to hire a respectable attorney to handle the process and help cut through any unforeseen legal hassles.

Create an Estate Plan

To save your children, grandchildren, or distant family from the hassle of going through the process listed in this article, you can do something about it by creating an estate plan and recording it.

Estate attorneys can help you create an ironclad estate plan to protect your legacy and your family.

Government data tells us that billions of dollars’ worth of unclaimed property and assets are floating around. Luckily the government has laws designed to protect consumers so that companies and states are required to put forth every effort to find the rightful heir. However, you have the power to ensure that your hard-earned assets aren’t at risk of escheatment. Here’s your motivator: the state gets to keep any unclaimed assets indefinitely and use any interest it earns to finance the government.

Make a list of your accounts.

A good place you can start is by making a list of all your accounts. List every bank account, credit card account, IRA, employee pension plan, etc. anything you have money invested in needs to be put on the list. Include all property, vehicles owned, and utility companies where you have a security deposit. Any place you might have money stashed or held needs to be put on a list and kept with your will or trust. It’s also a good idea to let family members know where the list can be found or make a copy for someone you can trust. This will help ensure that your children or family don’t lose the assets you built.