Lost and Found: Unclaimed Property Awaits

An estimated forty-two billion dollars of unclaimed property is waiting to be returned by state programs.  Could some of it be yours?  Even for high-net worth investors, gaining a few hundred dollars (Bulls tickets, anyone?) to a few thousand (additional IRA contribution?) might be worth a small effort.  You’d be unwise not to try and seize the assets that belong to you.

Unclaimed money is often buried in abandoned bank and investment accounts, uncashed dividend checks & paychecks, forgotten tax refunds and excess funds due from past-canceled insurance policies. Just how much money is floating around out there? $2.25 billion was reunited with its rightful owners in 2011, via approximately 2.5 million claims (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, NAUPA). The average amount: $892. But of course, wealthy investors who’d fallen out of touch with their assets were likely to retrieve larger sums. And the best part: it doesn’t take that long to find out if cash awaits. In less than five minutes, you could browse over to and do a quick check to see if there are any checks in your name. It’s pretty simple, here’s how:

  1. Prove it’s you. Most states provide a simple process for property to be claimed online once you verify your I.D. For those who prefer not to enter personal info online (SSN is often requested), you may also claim over the phone by calling your state treasurer’s department.
  2. Check everywhere + everything. Did you live in a different state 15 years ago? Did you use your maiden name? Did you sell an old business? Did you put money into a forgotten trust? Check old states’ database using the map provided by NAUPA.
  3. Check for old pensions. Before you started your business, were you once at a firm that offered a pension? Try contacting them. Ask if they have a record for you. If not, contact the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It’s a federal agency designed to ensure you can get your pension back even if you don’t have all the details. Go to  You’ll need your SSN, the dates you worked, the pension plan name, PBGC case number, and company or plan sponsor name
  4. No frauds. Just because your name’s John Smith doesn’t mean that Maserati is making its way to your driveway. Claiming funds that don’t belong to you is fraud. Be sure to have backup evidence and proof.
  5. Dot i’s + cross t’s. Once assets are found, the claiming process varies by state and size of property. Be sure to be thorough and comprehensive in completing all necessary documents. Ask your financial advisor for assistance, to be sure nothing falls through the cracks.
  6. Keep current property under wraps. Property becomes lost when a company has no communication with the owner.  Make sure you have contacted institutions that hold your money at least once a year.  Financial institutions will not generally forward mail, so be especially cognizant after a change of address.

The Key Takeaway

Billions of unclaimed dollars are going nowhere. Go check to see if some of them deserve to go directly into your retirement.

Perritt Capital Management, Inc. is the Registered Investment Advisor for Windgate Wealth Management accounts.  Windgate does not provide tax advice.  Consult your professional tax advisor for questions concerning your personal tax or financial situation.

Data here is obtained from what are considered reliable sources; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

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