When accounts are abandoned and the owner can not be located, they wind up in the custody of some sort of state authority, usually a branch of the state comptroller's office or other agency, who is charged with holding the money in trust until the rightful owner or heir can be located. Many owners and heirs are never located and the money sits in state accounts for years and sometimes even decades. Occasionally, the trust will publish the names of those who have money owed them in newspapers around the state and on the internet. And the authorities do manage to find thousands of owners and rightful heirs each year.
Can you find out if you are owed money free of charge? In some places you can search for free and others charge a fee. The best ones are as follows:
NAUPA Website. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators operate a very useful website to help people find their unclaimed property free. The website is missingmoney.com. and it is definitely worth a visit. At the NAUPA website, you can search for (1) bank accounts and safe deposit box contents; (2) stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends; (3) uncashed checks and wages; (4) insurance policies, CD's, trust funds; and utility deposits, escrow accounts.
You can visit NAUPA's other website unclaimed.org to find out who you should contact in your state to find lost money.
Lost IRS tax refunds: The IRS estimates that billions in legitimate tax refunds are never claimed, lost in the mail, or returned to the IRS "moved, left no forwarding address". Money that the IRS might owe you can only be claimed for the last three years from the date taxes are due, which is usually April 15. After three years have passed, you forfeit your right to claim any refund. If you didn't file a return for any of the last three years, or you never received a refund, you can visit the IRS website and find out the status of your refund. The website address is irs.gov and the box at the top marked "I'm waiting for my refund" is the one you need to click.
Lost pensions: There are millions of dollars worth of unclaimed pensions. When someone abandons a pension, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is charged with caring for the money until the owner or heir is located. You can type a name in to a search form at their website and find out if you or a relative is owed a pension. There is no charge to search this website and the website address is: search.pbgc.gov/mp/
Savings bonds: Americans own billions in savings bonds that have matured and are no longer earning interest, yet, no one ever cashes them in. To check and see if you or your relatives are the owners of lost savings bonds, you can visit this free database operated by the Treasury Department. The search is limited to Series E Bonds issued in 1974 and after. The website address is savingsbonds.gov.
Websites that charge a fee. There are two websites where one can search many different databases to find lost money, unfortunately, they charge a fee to search each database. Even if you don't want to pay the fee, you should definitely visit them just to see the various databases and all the different places people abandon money. The addresses are unclaimedassets.com and unclaimed.com. Visit these websites to help jog your memory. You might think of a place you and your relatives can search to find lost money. And remember, you don't have to pay a fee to find out if you are owed money. You can find the information someplace else that doesn't charge a fee, e.g., your state comptroller's office.
When trying to locate lost money, your first stop should always be missingmoney.com and unclaimed.org because they are free.