The company I work for “found” several million dollars last year thanks to a common law that originated in feudal England to the benefit the King.
Not every check that a company sends in the mail gets cashed. Supposed recipients, such as investors, employees, insurance beneficiaries, companies, and other customers, don’t always keep current addresses on file with said company. When the checks are lost in the mail, and the companies issuing the checks have tried for a year to get in touch with the recipients, the companies can’t just forget about the payment. They can’t reclaim the money. The funds must be escheated to the last known state of residence of the recipient.
States are strongly in favor of this arrangement as it provides them with income from time to time. But the states must also publish lists of the original intended recipients, just in case they come around and want to claim the money that is rightly theirs.
All state unclaimed property offices work together in the form of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).
The internet and NAUPA have made it easier for states to publish their abandoned property databases as well as for individuals to search these databases. When my company decided to look for money it was owed but never claimed, a search of just the biggest states resulted in claims totaling several million dollars. Needless to say, the company’s internal businesses that received these funds from the various states were quite happy with the unexpected income.
It was probably in 2000 when I first heard that there was a possibility that there existed in the world money someone had once attempted to send to me. I searched the unclaimed property databases for New Jersey, New York and Delaware. Unsatisfied with my results, I searched (fruitlessly) for money originally destined for my parents and other family members.
These days, searching for unclaimed property is easier. Many states work together to combine their database in one central location, Missing Money. When I originally performed my searches, only 25 states participated with Missing Money, but now there are only 15 states (including U.S. territories) that are not yet included in the central database.
No more than three people in my company work with NAUPA and the states to reclaim all funds originally intended for the businesses, and their first sweep of the largest rates resulted in income of more than ten million dollars. That doesn’t include millions of dollars that was found but will never be claimed due to unidentifiable co-owners.
A quick search of several websites can prove to be worthwhile, even if it doesn’t result in finding millions of dollars. Here are all the links you’ll need:
- Missing Money (for all states not listed below)
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- U.S. Virgin Islands
If you do find that you may be owed money, you’ll have to file a claim and provide positive identification. The process could take some time. If you don’t find anything, put a reminder in your calendar to check back in a year.
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published April 9, 2008.