The State Had at Least $52,000 of Her Money. Why Couldn’t She Get It Back?

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In the predawn hours in Singapore this month, Ms. Cox and I discussed the matter by Zoom with the state comptroller’s office while waiting for her small children to stir and put an end to the proceedings. At one point, Ms. Cox thought to ask about the missing $45,000 — that leftover amount from the 2014 statement. How much of her money did the state have now?

“It’s $115,000,” was the reply.

Turns out that the state tracks how investments perform, and you get all of that growth when you show up to claim your property. Those old Eaton Vance mutual funds had held up reasonably well. Ms. Cox cracked a wry smile.

Later that day, I asked about her plans for the money, which arrived in her bank account via wire transfer this week. A new 529 college savings plan for those two kids, perhaps? With the help of a Morgan Stanley broker?

“I don’t think so,” she said. “No. No, thank you.”

Not all unclaimed funds are bank or brokerage accounts that their owners forgot about. There could be stock dividends, insurance policies, uncashed checks and much more. If you want to find anything in your name — or, say, older relatives’ — here’s how to do it.

Search Your State (or Every State)

Every state has some sort of unclaimed property unit. If you search online, it’s easy to find — just be sure that the site is the legitimate one. Florida, reveling in wackiness as ever, runs its operation off the web address FLTreasurehunt.gov.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has a map on its home page with links to each state’s site. You can search every state at once at missingmoney.com

Prepare Your Credentials

To make a claim on your property, you’ll have to prove who you are, often with personal information or perhaps identification. You may also need records from the company you were dealing with before it handed everything off to the state.

Appeal When Blocked

If a state turns you away for whatever reason, make careful note of what, if anything, would cause it to change its mind. If you don’t like the answer and live in the state where the unclaimed property is, contact your state representatives and ask them to help as an act of constituent service.

And if it’s the company you patronized that turned your property over to the state and is now erecting obstacles, appeal up the ladder in any customer service department. If that doesn’t work, try the should-be-patented executive email carpet bomb method of selectively sending pointed letters to a company’s executive team.

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