In today's world, an individual's personal finances are ever changing and throughout each of our lifetimes we will have dozens of financial accounts. Think about how many times you may have changed banks, insurance companies, retirement plans, etc. Sometimes we create new accounts and forget about the old ones. Trying to track down old accounts doesn't have to be a nightmare because the internet makes it easier than ever to try and track down old accounts.
Where to look
There are many websites these days that will attempt to look for lost funds. One in particular that we've used is called Missing Money. The nice part about this site is that it's easy to use. Using your first name, last name, and state, you can search for missing accounts tied to specific financial institutions. The website is also tied to each state's division which is responsible for dealing with abandoned accounts.
How effective is it?
The effectiveness of this search tool largely depends on how common your name is. If you searched for John Smith in CA for instance, there are many people with that name and therefore many lost accounts would come up. You can try and narrow down your search by only looking in states where you have lived (instead of a generic search) which should cut down some of the clutter. Another best practice is that if your name has changed, due to marriage or divorce, search for any former names you've had as well. Some of the results will include a specific address which can help narrow your results.
How to claim an account
If you think you may have found an old account of yours, you'll normally have to contact the state's unclaimed property division in order to claim it. The state will likely require additional documentation to prove its you. They don't want just anyone being able to pick up lost accounts. Many states will require a driver’s license, Social Security card, or even proof of residence to show that it's your account.
Things can get a little more tricky if the person is deceased. In this case only the designated heir can rightfully claim the property. In order to do that, the state will normally require a death certificate and official last will and testament to be submitted.
What about other assets?
While Missing Money is a good start, there are various other resources for other lost assets that can be used. Searching for missing money goes beyond just yourself, and should also be considered for relatives who may have passed, or forgotten about old accounts. The following is a list of other resources to use on your quest of trying to find missing money:
- Unclaimed Pensions: Go to PBGC.gov/search/unclaimed-pensions to search for unclaimed pensions of companies that have gone out of business.
- Life Insurance: Search for lost life insurance at https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome
- Social Security: To request missing Social Security payments (including death benefits) call 800-772-1213.
When you have some time, take the 5 minutes and search for yourself. You might just be surprised at what you're able to find.