Someone has some of your money and is looking to give it back. Believe it or not, one in ten Pennsylvanians has forgotten money being held by the state. Whether from an old layaway or a savings bond that slipped your mind, these forgotten funds are deemed “unclaimed” and turned over to the state. Some of that money could be yours, and it’s waiting for you to come find it.
According to law, if a bank account isn’t touched for more than five years, the bank will turn the money over to the state. If the state cannot track you down, the treasury keeps these items and looks for an owner so they can turn it back over to its rightful place.
The most common types of unclaimed property are savings or checking accounts, stocks, dividends, uncashed checks and items that were left in safe deposit boxes.
State officials say Pennsylvania currently has $1.9 billion in unclaimed property, and in 2012 the state returned about $100 million to its rightful owners. To find money that could be yours, visit PA Treasury website. If you’re from outside of Pennsylvania, you can also check Missing Money. After checking for your own name, be sure to also check the names of any deceased relatives, because you could be the beneficiary if they had lost property.
"Don’t just look under your own name," says Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord. "Look under the names of loved ones and organizations: synagogues, churches, mosques, animal shelters and schools."
After a story about unclaimed property was broadcast on NBC10 this week, a woman from Glenside searched the online database and claimed nearly $600 and a Philadelphia woman claimed $200, according to Elizabeth Foose, with the PA Treasury.
If you do have property that is being held by the state treasury, McCord says that you can get your assets back for free.
"We need to caution people as yet another consumer protection: this is a free service. If anyone tries to intervene online and pretend, ‘pay me a fraction of this to go get it,’ understand that this will be done for you for free by existing employees who are terrific," says McCord.
While reclaiming forgotten funds may feel like winning the lottery, keeping track of your property will prevent you from having to file a claim in the first place. Keep an inventory of all of your property, such as bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies, stocks and retirement accounts. Especially keep track of your savings bonds. They are often forgotten because they take years to mature. Be sure to share this list with your next of kin.
Be sure to notify your bank, employer, insurance contacts, or anyone else who may be holding your assets of a change in your address or a change in your name due to marriage or divorce. It helps to make a checklist of all accounts that need to be notified if your name or address changes. Share this list with a family member or trusted friend in the case of an emergency.
If you leave a job, make sure you receive all paychecks and unused paid leave. Even if you have direct deposit, many companies issue a paper check for the final payment. It always makes financial sense for you to keep good records, and always be sure to cash all of your checks promptly.
Make sure you stay in contact with your banks and financial institutions to prevent your accounts from becoming inactive. While you’re at it, provide these companies with the contact information for your beneficiary.
The Pennsylvania State Treasury maintains custody of all unclaimed property until it is claimed by its rightful owner. By keeping track of your property, however, you can make sure your funds are never forgotten, for your sake and for the sake of your heirs.
"We believe in these economically challenging times, we have a moral as well as a legal obligation to try to get people reunited with their money," says McCord.