Many people are completely unaware that they have property due to them or a deceased loved one being held by the state. Occasionally, advertisements regarding collecting abandoned and unclaimed property air on the radio or on the TV and they are often perceived as scams and ignored. While some companies do offer services to help you collect your money, you should never have to pay to do so because the process is so simple! Here is some information in regards to why some assets end up at the unclaimed property office, what you can do to collect them and how to prevent your property from ending up there in the future:

What type of assets can be held at unclaimed property? Assets that may end up at unclaimed property range from uncashed payroll checks, dormant bank accounts, life insurance payouts, dividend checks, stock shares, etc. Even tangible property such as silverware and jewelry that may have been stored in a safe deposit box can end up at the unclaimed property division.

How do these assets end up there in the first place?

The #1 factor leading assets to end up at the Unclaimed Property Division is loss of contact. Many people move or change addresses without notifying their bank, employer, etc. of the change. Failure to respond to notices also leads to a loss of contact. Institutions are required by the law to turn over assets to the state following a three-year dormancy period. In most states, the unclaimed property division also has the right to sell any stock after a period of time as well.

How can one prevent this from happening? Keep track of everything you own. An effective way of doing so is by keeping a spreadsheet listing all of your assets and account information. This becomes especially useful to your family if you were to pass away. Your family will have a clear picture of everything you own making the collection process a lot easier. After all, do you want shares meant for your family to end up at the unclaimed property division and potentially sold at a low market price? Don’t let the state determine when to sell your stocks; that decision should be left to you and your family.

How do I check if I have unclaimed assets and how do I collect them? It is always wise to check your state’s unclaimed property division on an annual basis. Most of the time this can be done through a website set up by the state. To search your state, just enter into any search engine your state’s name and “unclaimed property,” and be sure you click on a link for your state’s governmental office and not for an advertisement or commercial “facilitator,” who will likely take a fee and demand your personal information to do the work that you can do for free on your own. If you’ve ever lived in another state it is also wise to check that state’s unclaimed property database.