Personal Finance

States have $70 billion in unclaimed assets. How to check if any is yours

Key Points
  • About 1 in 7 people have unclaimed property being held by a state.
  • The average value of each asset that ends up being claimed is $2,080, although that ranges from a couple of pennies to more than $1 million.
  • Here's how to check if a state is holding an asset that belongs to you.
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There's a decent chance that your state is holding money or other assets that belong to you — and government officials want you to have it.

About 1 in 7 people — 33 million altogether — collectively have an estimated $70 billion worth of unclaimed property being held by state treasurers, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

The types of assets that end up with states range from uncashed paychecks or rebate checks to inactive brokerage accounts and unpaid life insurance benefits.

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"Some are in the six or even seven figures; then there are a lot that are very small amounts, sometimes just a couple of pennies," said John Murante, Nebraska state treasurer and president of the association. "Regardless of the size, we try to get it as quickly to [owners] as possible."

The average value of each claim is $2,080, according to the group. Last year, about $4 billion in property was returned to rightful owners.

How to check if you have unclaimed property

Each year on Feb. 1, the group holds "Unclaimed Property Day," when it encourages people to check — a national clearinghouse for unclaimed assets that most states participate in — or an individual state's unclaimed property website. It's worth doing a national search as well as conducting individual state searches based on where you have lived, even briefly.

The association, which is an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers, also offers links to state programs. States do not charge a fee to search their database nor to claim your property.

So how does property end up with the government? If a company, bank or other entity can't find you after a certain amount of time — generally three to five years, Murante said — the asset is turned over to the state.

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While each state has its own rules that govern the process of claiming the property, you can count on being required to prove that you are the rightful owner by, for example, providing documents confirming your identity. States often try to locate people as well by, for instance, matching the owner's information to a tax return.

Even if you search and discover you aren't due anything, that shouldn't dissuade you from regularly checking to see if that changes, Murante said.

"State treasurers get new unclaimed property turned over to them every single day," he said.