Free Money!

Catchy title, huh? Well, in this case, it may actually be true. Occasionally, you've probably seen in the newspaper a small-type, several page listing of accounts held by the state that are considered abandoned by the account custodian, usually a bank, a utility, an insurance company, or the like. Maybe you've even looked for your name in the listing, wondering if there's some hidden treasure to be found, but skeptical that, like the lottery, your likelihood of coming up a "winner" is pretty slim.

If, like me, you've lived in other states besides the one you're in now, the first problem is that the listing you find in the newspaper will be of those accounts held only by your resident state. Almost by definition, since these abandoned accounts are years if not decades old, if you've lived in your current state for a relatively short period of time it is unlikely that you've forgotten an account somewhere. Wouldn't it be nice if there was one place to go to search just about every state to see if you're owed some money?

Actually, there is. Just go to the Missing Money website, enter your name, and start searching (while you initially enter only your current resident state, the next search screen will allow you to search other states, or all the ones that submit their databases to the site). Forty of the fifty states (and one Canadian province) participate in the site, so there's a good chance that that long-lost utility deposit or insurance policy can be found.

Here's my personal experience in using this site. Several years ago, when I first discovered it, I dutifully plugged in my name and found nothing in my current state, but expanded it to all the participating states (I lived in New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Louisiana before I settled in Pennsylvania). Sure enough, a few items immediately popped up related to the address of my childhood home in New Jersey, which I haven't used as a home address since 1976. While no amounts are shown, there is an indication as to whether the account is valued at under or over $100. By entering just my last name, similar items for my brothers were also listed for the same address (I believe the accounts might have been from an insurance policy that one of my grandparents had purchased). Needless to say, I was a family hero for a few days when I was able to pass along that information!

One caveat, though, is that to submit a claim for an item, you probably have to prove that you lived at that address at one time, which could be a problem for really old stuff. I was fortunate in that, since that was my address of record for the Air Force, all I needed was my DD214 discharge form to prove that I was the person due the account.

Don't forget to search for your parents, also, especially if they've passed away. In that case, you'll need a copy of the death certificate and the will designating you as the executor or beneficiary. In my parents' case, there apparently was a forgotten insurance policy with a modest payout that was just waiting for us to claim it.

In all, a few hours of work filing the claims paid off with over $1,000. As always, if you need any help with this, just get in touch with one of our financial advisors at the link below.

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