Locating Unclaimed Money in Deceased Relatives' Names

When the Missouri state treasurer awarded an enormous sum of money to a woman in Kansas City, the payout set a record for the largest amount of unclaimed property ever returned in the state's--and possibly the country's--history. The woman, who kept her identity anonymous for privacy reasons, received an astounding $6.1 million from the state.

While $6.1 million may be the biggest payment for unclaimed property, it's not necessarily out of the question for people to receive large dollar amounts that they never knew they were entitled to. The Office of the State Treasurer in Maine reported a single payment of $454,000, with the state's average claim amount being $767. Payments in the hundreds of dollars are more common, but receiving several thousand dollars from unclaimed property is by no means unheard of.

There are several reasons why unclaimed property exists and why so many people are unaware that they are entitled to missing cash and assets. Money can fall into the pool of unclaimed property when people lose track of their accounts, when they move without providing a forwarding address or when they don't include adequate or valid information for beneficiaries. In many cases, people can actually pass away without ever realizing they had money o wed to them. This can provide a person's heir or heirs with the opportunity to rightfully claim that money.

While unclaimed property may refer to real estate, it can also include the balances of bank accounts, stocks, traveler's checks, unredeemed gift certificates, life insurance policies, utility security deposits, payroll check refunds, the contents of safe deposit boxes and other forms of money or assets. When a person fails to make an ownership claim on one of these assets, the bank or company that is holding onto that property must give it over to the state. In Missouri alone there is still more than $600 million worth of unclaimed property in the treasury's possession.

How to Find Unclaimed Money

With record amounts of unclaimed property being returned to heirs and owners, it is no wonder that more and more people are checking to see if they are owed any assets that may result in a huge payday.

Fortunately, searching for unclaimed property is a free, fast and easy process. Each individual state has its own search registry, which can be found at the website www.unclaimed.org. Another useful site--www.missingmoney.com--can search all participating states at once. Both of these sites require basic information--usually just a participant's first and last name--in order to run the search.

To thoroughly seek out unclaimed property, individuals should search in every state in which they've resided as well as by every name they've ever used, including nicknames and maiden names. In order to search for unclaimed property from deceased relatives, it's helpful to have as much information as possible about where they lived and what names they went by.

When searching for unclaimed money, users should never have to pay out of pocket to receive information; all unclaimed property records are available through an online search at no cost. Services that require a fee or a certain percentage of the payout should be avoided.

With state governments providing efficient search tools for locating unclaimed property, finding long-forgotten assets and cash is easier than ever. Whether it's a huge payout or just enough money to cover the monthly grocery bill, discovering unclaimed property is one of the best ways to make sure a person's hard-earned money finds its way back into the hands of its rightful owner.