Do you ever daydream about inheriting surprise money from a long-lost relative? Receiving an inheritance would be a welcomed financial boost, regardless of whether it was expected or not. Even if you don’t think you’re entitled to any inheritance, don’t be so quick to write it off. Unclaimed money from deceased relatives is much more common than you might think.
In fact, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) reports that state governments returned over $2.8 billion in unclaimed money to rightful owners in just the past year. This means that it’s entirely possible that you’re entitled to an unclaimed inheritance, but you just didn’t know about it.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about unclaimed money: whether you can claim it or not, what the process looks like, and what you can do to take action.
Can You Claim Unclaimed Money From Deceased Relatives?
Yes, you can claim unclaimed money from deceased relatives. However, there are some caveats to be aware of. First and foremost, you must be able to identify that unclaimed money in the name of your deceased relative exists. Second, you must verify that you’re legally entitled to this unclaimed money.
To find out if a deceased relative left unclaimed money behind, you can simply perform an unclaimed property search. This data is provided by each state controller office and is free of charge.
Equally as important is determining your eligibility to inherit any unclaimed money that you might find. We recommend doing this by consulting your state’s unclaimed property laws. States typically require that you file an electronic claim along with additional documentation to prove that you’re entitled to claim the unclaimed property.
We’ll explain both of these processes in more detail shortly.
What Types of Financial Assets Can Be Claimed from Deceased Relatives?
The term “unclaimed money,” calls up the image of cash. In reality, however, unclaimed money manifests in many different ways. Here are some examples of unclaimed property and assets that you might be able to claim from a deceased relative:
Bank and savings accounts
Cars and other vehicles
Stocks, bonds and annuities
Certificates of Deposit
Employer-sponsored retirement accounts
Individual retirement accounts
Payable on death accounts
Safety deposit boxes
Utility company deposits and refunds
Insurance policy proceeds
Proceeds from lawsuits
What Happens to Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives?
The example list above shows that there is a vast array of assets and property that someone could accumulate in their lifetime. Could you begin to imagine why some money might go unclaimed?
When someone is planning their estate, their job is to be as thorough as possible. However, it’s entirely possible (and human) to forget about an asset that slipped through the cracks. Intestacy is another common scenario, which is when an individual passes away without an estate plan. The court will do their best job to identify the decedent’s assets and distribute them per the state’s intestate succession rules. Despite a thorough discovery process, some assets might fly under the radar and go unclaimed. In some cases, the court will fail to identify a rightful heir, such as when the decedent’s family members are all predeceased.
When money goes unclaimed, several things will happen. First, the company that holds an abandoned asset or property is typically required by state law to make reasonable attempts to contact the owner. The state determines how long the company must do this and what qualifies as a reasonable attempt of contact. In California, for example, this time period is three years. After this time passes, the asset is considered escheated and is turned over to the state. The state controller will then hold the asset for a defined period of time, giving heirs an opportunity to find and file claims for unclaimed money. Ultimately, when the holding period concludes, the assets are liquidated and absorbed by the state. Each state has different rules regarding this process.
How to Claim Unclaimed Money From Deceased Relatives
If you’re one of the lucky individuals who finds unclaimed money, and believe you’re the rightful heir to it, it’s time to file your claim. You can do so by filing a claim through the controller office of the state that holds the asset or property. Although you’ll need to follow the respective office’s instructions, here is a general idea of documents you may be required to submit with your claim:
A completed claim affirmation form
Driver license or other form of state-issued identification
Marriage certificate or other court document if you’ve had a name change
Social security number or individual taxpayer identification number (special instructions provided for foreign citizens)
Proof of mailing address
Decedent’s death certificate
Decedent’s social security or individual taxpayer identification number (if not included in death certificate)
Proof that decedent received mail at reported address
Other proof that property belonged to the decedent
Trust documents, if applicable
Proof of your relation to the decedent and to the estate
Now, you may be wondering how exactly one finds unclaimed money from deceased relatives. The good news here is that the process is quite simple. You can conduct free searches by state on www.unclaimed.org, which is the website managed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). It’s also not a bad idea to conduct nation-wide searches via the free website www.missingmoney.com, which is endorsed by NAUPA. For a thorough step-by-step guide on this process, visit our guide, “How to Find Unclaimed Inheritance.”
Avoid This Confusion - Create Your Estate Plan Today
In this guide, we discussed how it’s entirely possible that a deceased relative left behind unclaimed money, and that it’s possible for you to find it and claim it. Unclaimed money can come in a variety of asset and property types, and are often the kind that are easily forgotten or somehow slip through the cracks.
Each state has different unclaimed property laws, so it’s best to consult your state controller’s website to find out any specific rules that might apply to you.
You might have also reflected on what a headache it is to find unclaimed money - and even more so, what a waste it can be if money goes unclaimed. You can proactively create an estate plan to prevent this from happening to you and your family members.
Our estate planning services make it possible for you to create an iron-clad estate plan to help protect your legacy and your family. Get started to find out how you can start the estate planning process right away.
Unclaimed money from deceased relatives is a conundrum that happens all too often. Credible government data tells us that there are billions of unclaimed property and assets floating around in our economy. Luckily, our governments have laws that are designed to protect consumers so that companies and states alike make every effort to find the rightful heir. However, you have the power to make sure your hard-earned assets aren’t at risk of escheatment. Set up a Trust or Will today!
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