How to find unclaimed money from deceased relatives (2022 Guide)

How to find unclaimed money from deceased relatives

 

 

When a relative dies, they often leave a will or at least some directions about how they want their property distributed.  When winding up an estate, the executor or person in charge of winding up the deceased’s affairs and making distribution to heirs, looks at the banking and account information that the deceased left for them.  In many cases, this is the total of the deceased’s property, but with billions and billions of dollars in unclaimed property in the United States, it is very likely that you may be able to recover unclaimed money from deceased relatives.  How this money gets distributed may be subject to state laws and to the terms of any written wills, but the presence of the money can amount to a substantial windfall for some of a deceased’s remaining family members.

What is Unclaimed Property?

To understand how a deceased can leave behind property that is not located in their assets, it is important to understand what unclaimed money is.  Unclaimed money, also known as unclaimed property, abandoned property, and abandoned money, refers to a subtype property that is in the custody of a third-party custodian, but still under the legal ownership of the owner.  Examples of this type of property custodian relationship would be bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance proceeds.

Once property is classified as unclaimed, the custodian places it in the custody of the relevant organization, which is usually a state’s unclaimed property database.  Again, there is some variation among state law, but the state then holds it for the owner or the owners heirs to reclaim it for a statutorily defined period of time.  In most jurisdictions in the United States, the state will hold the property indefinitely, though some states dictate that the property reverts to the ownership of the state after the expiration of a set number of years.

How Does Property Become Unclaimed?

Knowing that property can be classified as unclaimed after the custodian of the property is unable to contact the property owner for a set period of time.  Once this happens and the property owner complies with other statutory requirements, they can transfer possession of the property to the state.  Usually, this happens because people have forgotten that they opened an account and they do not get the notice because they have moved since they opened the account.  Property can also be unclaimed because a person does not know about it; rebates, refunds, repaid wages, and insurance policies may fall into this category.  For example, many employers once automatically paid into pension and insurance programs for employees, who may or may not have really understood those benefits, or assumed that they were too insignificant to track after the employee left that employer.  For deceased people, the custodian of the property may have been making attempts to contact the property owner but been unsuccessful because of the death.

How Much Unclaimed Money is in the United States?   

Whether you are the executor of an estate or simply a potential heir who may be entitled to unclaimed money from deceased relatives, it is worth checking unclaimed property databases for assets when a loved one has died.  That is because, there are billions of unclaimed dollars in the United States.

Before You Begin

Searching for unclaimed money for a deceased relative is as simple as finding unclaimed money for yourself, though the claim process may be more difficult.  Expect to be able to provide proof that the property owner is deceased, which may require a certified death certificate.  You will also be required to provide proof of your relationship to the deceased, which may involve birth certificates or marriage certificates.

The more information you have about the deceased, the easier it will be to find unclaimed property in his or her name.  We suggest gathering as much information about them as possible before you begin your search.  The type of information that you may need should include: their full name, any other names (married or maiden names and aliases), social security number, driver’s license number, all known addresses, all known employers, birth date, death date, and any possible information about life insurance policies.

Finding Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives

Using the information that you have gathered about your loved one, you can use their personal information to run a free unclaimed money search.  You will repeat the search in all of the various state, federal, and private databases that may have unclaimed property information for them.  While there is no central repository for unclaimed money websites, you can find links to them and tutorials how to use them on our site.  You can also access www.missingmoney.com, where you can search multiple databases at once, but be advised that not all state or federal databases are on that site.  Another resource you may use is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

State Searches

You can begin looking for unclaimed money from deceased relatives at the state, federal, or private level. We tend to suggest starting the searches with the states, because most state databases have similar construction, are user friendly, and will have fewer potential results than federal-level databases.  We provide links to these databases on our website, as well as tutorials for how to use them.  The more information you are able to upload, the more narrowly-tailored your results will be.  However, keep in mind that business relationships were often less formal in days-gone-by.  A deceased relative may have had property in names other than their legal name, so check for initials or nicknames.  In addition, you may want to check common misspellings of their names.  Check all of the states where you know the relative resided, as well as states where you know they had relatives.  For some very mobile families, this may mean searching almost all of the states to be sure that you have not missed any, but most searches will focus on two or three states.  If you locate money you believe belongs to the deceased, you indicate that you are making a claim as a surviving heir.  The state will provide you with information about the type of proof you have to provide to substantiate your claim.

Federal Searches

In addition to searching the state databases, there are some federal databases to search for unclaimed money as well.  Not all of these will apply, though, if you have limited information about a deceased relative you may want to search all of them to ensure that you are not missing any resources.

Conclusion

It may seem time consuming to run an unclaimed money search in multiple different databases, however it is the best way to find unclaimed money from deceased relatives.  Many people pass away without even knowing that they had unclaimed property out there.