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.
- USA.gov: Unclaimed Money from the Government
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators: What Is Unclaimed Property?
- FLTreasureHunt.org: Welcome to Unclaimed Property Search
- Bureau of Unclaimed Property: Do You Have Lost Treasure?
- FLTreasureHunt.org: Frequently Asked Questions
- FLTreasureHunt.org: Have You Been Contacted About Unclaimed Property?
- USA.gov. "Unclaimed Money from the Government." Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- Washington State. "Unclaimed Property: General Information." Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Escheatment Process: Accounts -- Abandoned and Unclaimed." Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. "What is unclaimed property?" Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- Office of the New York State Comptroller. "Annual Report of the Office of Unclaimed Funds," Page 1. Accessed Feb. 1, 2020.
- The New York Times. "There Are Billions in Unclaimed Assets Out There. Some Could Be Yours." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.
- New York State Comptroller. "Office of Unclaimed Funds Fact Sheet." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.
- Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. "Texas Comptroller Announces Record $308 Million in Unclaimed Property Returned in Fiscal 2019." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.
- PressConnects. "Unclaimed Funds: Most less than $100, but one Connecticut resident got missing $32.8 million." Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.
- Internal Revenue Service. "Where's My Refund?" Accessed Feb. 20, 2020.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.