Your state could owe you hundreds of dollars. Mine did. Here’s how to check

Your state could be holding unclaimed money or property of yours.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Does your state have money that belongs to you? Beyond your your tax refund, which it might be holding on to, too. Your state could be keeping some funds from a bank account, stocks, bonds, an uncashed check, a settlement, insurance benefits, wages or the contents of a safe deposit box — that you need to claim.

I was recently researching an issue with identity theft when I noticed a link to check for unclaimed property and followed it, mostly out of curiosity. Much to my surprise, I had $200 to claim. Turns out, the amount of unclaimed property across the US is not insignificant. In 2019, the average claim paid was $1,780, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. California is holding on to around 57 million unclaimed pieces of property valued at approximately $10.2 billion, according to the state’s website, and in 2020 returned $258 million worth of unclaimed items to their owners. New York has even more unclaimed funds, holding on to $16.5 billion in lost or forgotten property and returning $126 million worth of property last year. 

We’ll explain why your state may be holding money or other financial assets, how to check if you can make a claim and how to recover money for a deceased relative. For more ways the government may owe you money, here’s what to know about stimulus check plus-up payments, seven tax credits for 2020, the expanded child tax credit for up to $3,600 per kid and what we know about student loan debt forgiveness.

Why would my state have my money in the first place?

Businesses will send money and property to state-run unclaimed property offices when they can’t locate the owner. The state will then hold these items until their owner claims them. 

With most states, finding out if you have any unclaimed property is pretty easy. Claiming it can be more work, depending on which documents you need to collect and send to the state to prove you’re the rightful owner of the property.


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How to check for unclaimed money and other property with a state

To find out if a state is holding your financial assets that you need to claim, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators lists official websites where you can search for unclaimed property by each state, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

1. Head to Unclaimed.org and either tap Select your state or province or tap your state on the map. You’ll be sent to the state’s unclaimed property page.

2. Next, enter your information. The page may ask you for your first and last name, middle initial and city. Your last name will most likely be required, but you can try using or skipping  the suggested fields to broaden or fine-tune the results.

You can also search across 39 states at once using the Missing Money website, which is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The search tool is missing 11 states, however: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming.

If your search in either tool turns up that a state is holding property of yours, it’s time to claim it.

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You can search for unclaimed money the state is holding for you.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How to claim your missing money

If your search results show that a state is holding some of your money or property, you can submit a claim to get it back. Each state handles claims a little differently. Some will allow you to submit your claim online, while others may require you to mail documentation to support your claim. Among the documents you may need to provide are:

  • A copy of your photo ID
  • A copy of a Social Security card or a tax identification number
  • Verification of your current address
  • Documentation relating to the type of property, such as banking records, a cashier’s check or a stock certificate

Don’t expect the claim to happen quickly. The office of the New York State Comptroller said it can take 90 days to process a claim. The office of the California State Controller said it can take up to 180 days to return property. 


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How to claim money on behalf of a deceased relative

States also allow you to claim property of a deceased relative, and the rules around submitting a claim differ state by state. Generally, in addition to supplying documents to verify your own identity, you may need to submit a death certificate, the deceased’s will and documents showing your relationship to the deceased and your right to claim the property.

For more, here’s what we know about President Joe Biden’s plans for canceling student debt, new ways to pay less for health care and the latest and the bonus money for weekly unemployment checks.


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