In New York State, banks, insurance companies, and other businesses must turn over unclaimed funds (a.k.a. abandoned funds, missing funds) to the Office of Unclaimed Funds, which is part of the Office of the State Comptroller. These funds are deemed abandoned if there is no activity in the account for a specified period of time depending on the type of account, usually 2-5 years. In New Jersey, unclaimed funds are turned over to the Unclaimed Property Administration. Why does this happen? Why does money go unclaimed? Funds get turned over to the State for many reasons including:
Refunds That Don't Reach the Recipient
Typically, if an individual is entitled to a refund from a utility company, insurance carrier, or another type of account, the business will mail the check to the last address on file. However, if the individual moves without advising the business of a forwarding address, then the money sits in the account until the business is required to turn the unclaimed money over to the State.
Forgotten Savings Accounts
Believe it or not, people do forget about funded bank accounts. This money will stay with the institution until it is required to turn over the abandoned property to the State.
Failure to Deposit a Check
At times, individuals fail to cash insurance checks, dividend checks, or a final paycheck after leaving a job. If the organization is unable to locate the person, the funds will eventually be considered "unclaimed funds" and transferred to the State.
How Do I Claim My Money?
In New York, you can search the Office of Unclaimed Funds website located at www.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/index.htm. In New Jersey, you can find information on the Unclaimed Property Administration at www.unclaimedproperty.nj.gov and search for unclaimed funds at www.missingmoney.com. If you find an unclaimed item connected with your name and address, you may be able to fill out the claim form online; however, some claims must be made by mail such as those for joint owners, companies, or deceased owners. Be prepared to verify your identity and the address listed with the claim. If the owner of the unclaimed item is deceased, the process is much more complicated because the claimant must prove entitlement. Typically, an estate representative (executor or administrator) is appointed through a court proceeding and is then authorized to withdraw the unclaimed funds. However, heirs (next of kin) or creditors can claim the funds with sufficient proof of their entitlement. A death certificate and confirmation of the decedent's address is always needed but proof as to entitlement changes with every situation. If the owner of the unclaimed item is deceased, it would be wise to contact an estate attorney to guide you through the estate process.
BE AWARE of Account Recovery Companies/Asset Finders
There are companies that search for unclaimed funds or assets of which the owner is unaware. The company usually contacts the owner (or estate representative) and tells the person that his or her funds have been located. The company will offer to do the work necessary to obtain the funds but will charge a fee for this service. Many asset finders will charge a fee of 1/3 but be aware that many states limit the amount of money this type of company can charge. For example, New York State restricts such fees, by law, to 15% of the amount recovered.