Even the most frugal and diligent among us can forget about fragments of our financial lives as the years pile up, we move from home to home, paperwork accumulates and gets misplaced or thrown out. These forgotten fragments may include bank accounts of various types, mature savings bonds no longer gaining interest, brokerage accounts, insurance proceeds, etc.
Once an asset has been dormant for a period of time, the financial institution is required to turn it over to the state. According to a recent article in Kiplingers, state treasuries and other agencies hold $40 billion in unclaimed property! And the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association reports that in 2011, states took in $5.8 billion in unclaimed property, and paid out $2 billion.
In Florida, a bank will consider your account dormant if there has been no activity for five years. Activity is defined as deposits, withdrawals, or communication of any type with the institution. For accounts opened after October 1, 1990, the bank is required to contact your beneficiary as the dormancy deadline approaches. If there is no beneficiary or the beneficiary cannot be reached, the institution must try contacting the owner within 180 days after the account becomes dormant. If there is no response, the asset is turned over to the Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Property. (Other states have similar procedures, although dormancy periods may vary from state to state.)
Where to go looking for lost assets
But don’t despair. Once turned over to the state, you can find your unclaimed property through a variety of search engines. Check these resources to see if you have any “lost” assets:
If you think you have lost or misplaced a savings bond, here’s a form you can fill out: https://www.treasuryhunt.gov/forms/sav1048.pdf
Obviously, it’s delightful to find “lost” money – but better not to lose it in the first place! Here are some tips for making sure you keep track of what you have. You will notice these practices are identical to good estate planning practices:
- Keep records up to date.
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date.
- Let key family members know what your assets are, and where they are.
- When you change your address, notify your financial institutions.
- If your name changes due to divorce or marriage, notify your financial institutions and your employer.
- Consolidate accounts. One reason assets get forgotten is because there are just too many of them. When possible, consider consolidating them so they are easier to track.