How to Find Unclaimed Funds in Florida

How to Find Unclaimed Funds in Florida
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Unclaimed funds include forgotten bank accounts, uncashed final paychecks and life insurance payments that the beneficiary never collected. You have to search for unclaimed money at the state level, as there's no federal system for tracking it. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators says Florida and other states have a total of more than $40 billion in unclaimed funds.

Search by Name

Florida lets you search for unclaimed assets without any idea what they might be, or if any unclaimed assets even exist. Whether it's a bank account, an uncashed check or an abandoned safety deposit box, you can search the Bureau of Unclaimed Property website by a personal or business name. The bureau recommends you search all possible names -- birth, married and any nicknames. You also can call the Bureau of Unclaimed Property -- 888-258-2253 -- and request a search, though the staff's only tool is the same website the public uses.

Getting a Hit

If you search by a common name and get flooded with hits, you can enter an address as well to eliminate some of them. When you find a name, address or account that looks right, click on it for more details. That gives you the account number, the type of account, what business or government agency holds the money and possibly an address. If you decide to go further, the website will ask you various questions -- are you the owner? The owner's heir? -- and request identification.

Applying for Accounts

You have to file a claim for unclaimed property in writing. You can download the required forms from the website, but you can't apply online. Each claims form details the identifying data you have to provide to prove your claim. Every claimant needs a driver's license or some other government-issued photo ID to prove her identity.

That still doesn't prove you're the John Smith or Mary Jones listed on the account, so you'll have to provide more documentation. The exact proof required varies claim to claim.

Going It Alone

A number of companies offer to search for unclaimed property for a price. This is perfectly legal, but as they're going to search the same state website you'd use, it's not necessary to find lost assets. If a company tells you that there's a time limit and you have to move fast, it's a scam. Once the money comes under Florida's supervision, it remains available until claimed. You can make as many searches as you want, free, and take as much time as necessary to do so.