Money Left Unclaimed in Dormant Accounts

Ray’s Take: It’s crazy to think that there are billons of hard-earned dollars left behind or forgotten about in dormant accounts all across the world. But with that much money left unclaimed, there are clearly many reasons accounts go dormant. Moving to another state and forgetting to close accounts is the usual culprit.

In 2017, significant changes were made to the Tennessee unclaimed property law. The revised law reduced dormancy periods for many property types from five years to three years and introduced new provisions for specific property types – including health savings accounts, custodial accounts and stored-value cards. Dormancy periods vary by state and type of account.

To become dormant, the owner of the account must not have initiated any activity for a specific period of time. Financial institutions are required by state law to make an attempt to contact the owners of the dormant accounts. If this is unsuccessful, unclaimed money in the account is transferred to the state’s treasury department – meaning they get your money.

If you think you have forgotten accounts and unclaimed money, the best place to begin your search is, the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). This free website contains information about unclaimed property held by each state.

There are services that offer to search for unclaimed inheritance money for a fee. Unless you have reason to suspect that there is a significant sum of unclaimed money out there or your loved one lived abroad, it makes more sense to conduct the search yourself.

I saw a funny commercial suggesting that some people who’ve changed careers keep their old business cards just to remember where their old 401(k) accounts were. Be sure to keep track of all your accounts and never let them go dormant. Even though a dormant account is inactive, it is still subject to fees and maintenance charges, which can erase the balance of your account over time or even put you in the negative.

Dana’s Take: Have you visited your storage unit or lockbox lately? In them, you may find some of your very own unclaimed property, like rare coins or family jewelry. It’s funny how we move these collectibles around, but don’t actually use them. Consider a family meeting to decide what to do with family valuables.

Fees on storage units really add up, and most of what they hold is guilt. Often storage units hold sentimental things, which are the hardest to release. In Peter Walsh’s excellent book, Let It Go, he emphasizes that our hearts and minds hold the memories of cherished loved ones, not the objects themselves. Find a nonprofit like Habit for Humanity’s Re-store and donate once-loved treasures to help others.

Check your storage spaces and see if it’s time to free up some physical and emotional space.

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