Florida Treasure Hunt - Unclaimed Property

Michelle Barron |

Can you imagine a lost and found that has billions of dollars in it? Well, the United States has one, with billions, of dollars.[1]  Every individual state has a lost and found, and according to our Chief Financial Officer, the state of Florida has $2 billion in ours. I am talking about unclaimed property, 2 billion dollars' worth, waiting for the rightful owners. The problem is, most people don’t even know they have lost property. Could that be you?

Unclaimed property refers to an asset that has been turned over to the state after several years of inactivity. Each state has specific guidelines regarding what is considered inactivity and the allowable inactivity timeline. In the state of Florida, it is generally five years.  

The states safely hold the money for the rightful owner. While there is no time limit on claiming, the state does not pay any interest on money they are holding. Instead, in the state of Florida, this money is used for education funding until it is claimed.  

Can you have unclaimed property?

You are probably thinking, how could someone have money that they don’t know about or even forget? I wonder the same thing, yet as I am pulling resources for writing this piece, I see the statistic for Florida, 1 in 5 people have unclaimed property. I have searched my name before, but what the heck, I search again. I have unclaimed property! Now I know why Florida’s website is titled fltreasurehunt.org.  

Many times money is lost when someone moves and changes their address. Sometimes it is merely just a matter of never cashing a check. Frequently beneficiaries miss collecting on all of a loved one’s assets. The billions of dollars of unclaimed property belong to everyday people, like you and me. 

Here are some common forms of property that routinely end up unclaimed:

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings account
  • Stocks
  • Un-cashed dividend checks
  • Trust distributions
  • Insurance policies
  • Pensions
  • Utility deposits
  • Mortgage insurance refunds
  • Safety deposit boxes* assets in safety deposit boxes will be auctioned off. The state will hold the auctioned value in your name until claimed

Do I have unclaimed property, and how can I collect it?

Each state has an unclaimed property division and website where you can search. It takes about 30 seconds to type in your name and perform a search. Heirs can even collect from deceased family members, so don’t forget to type in the names of your lost loved ones. If you have lived in multiple states, then you will want to check each state’s website. The National Association of Unclaimed Property is a useful resource.

If you find a “treasure” you can submit a claim directly with the state. Even with the physical offices closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can still search and claim your unclaimed property in the state of Florida. The state of Florida will immediately provide a claim number and will contact you within 90 days. You may be required to provide additional information to verify your ownership.  

Claiming and receiving your money from the state is pretty straight forward. Go straight to the source and beware of scams. Some companies will charge you for searching for the property and processing the claim. However, all information to search and claim property is available free of charge by either going to one of the websites linked within this article or calling your state’s unclaimed property office.  

How can I be proactive and avoid unclaimed property?

Before being declared unclaimed property, the business holding your asset should send a written notice regarding the property/account to the address of record, as well as attempt to contact the known owner by phone. If the owner does not reply or the mail is undeliverable, the business must turn the property over to the state of the owner’s last known address.

As a proactive measure, make sure that you keep regular contact with the institutions that hold your assets, updating your contact information when it changes. Many institutions now have policies that require transactions within a few years. Often they do not consider interest or re-occurring dividend payments as a transaction. Make sure you understand what their system is and stay in contact.

Another useful tidbit is to make sure that you have documented an itemized list of your accounts and assets for family members if something happens to you. 

Following these tips will help ensure that your assets will not end up in the state’s unclaimed properties account. Sure it is free to retrieve, but it is a hassle to go through the process, and who wants to do that.

Have you found any unclaimed property for you or someone you know? I would love to hear about it; share your story with us at info@RiverCityWealth.com.

This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only. All information contained herein is derived from sources deemed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed.