Wouldn’t you like a few hundred extra bucks in your pocket?
Have you ever found money in the pocket of an old pair of jeans, or your lab coat, that you had completely forgotten about? It’s always a nice feeling to find “lost” money, but there is a much bigger pocket full of money that you may be overlooking – your state’s unclaimed property list. Chances are that over the course of your medical education and training, you have lived in a few different cities and states. You diligently closed your accounts – telephone, cable, utilities, maybe even a bank account. But maybe there was some seemingly insignificant account you overlooked…Anytime a company owes you money and cannot contact you for whatever reason, the company cannot legally keep your money and is required to turn it over to the state as unclaimed (also known as escheat). Laws vary by state, but the general rule is that companies must escheat assets inactive for 3 years. The most common types of property turned over to the state are earned interest on a closed savings account, rebate or refund check, dividends, stocks, and bonds; real estate and unused gift certificates are usually excluded. According to their websites, the State of California is currently in possession of more than $5.7 billion in unclaimed property belonging to approximately 11.6 million individuals and organizations; New York has $10.5 billion, and Texas has $2.2 billion. The good news is that it is easy to find and collect your money…
Every state has unclaimed property laws, and collecting your money is as easy as filling out a simple form. I know firsthand that especially in the banking sector, unclaimed property laws are strictly enforced; while I was working at the Federal Reserve as a Bank Examiner, we regularly checked bank records to ensure banks were escheating unclaimed property to the states in a timely manner. There are many unclaimed property scams so be careful of any unsolicited requests to help you claim your money for a fee. There is no cost to claim and collect money escheated to the state. However, if your unclaimed property exceeds a given amount, which varies by state, you may be required to get your claim form notarized. Once you make your claim, most states also allow you to check the status of the claim. I recommend you search any state you have ever lived in for your unclaimed properties. Start your search here: http://www.unclaimed.org and then click on your state to go directly to your state’s treasury and/or controller’s website. Always make sure the site you are visiting is an official government site with .gov or .us in their web address – you don’t want to get duped into scam sites trying to get your personal and financial information.
Remember, unclaimed property is escheated to the state when a company cannot contact you, so to minimize future unclaimed properties, always update your contact information with any company you do business with, especially your financial institutions. Most of the time, the value of escheated property is a few hundred dollars. With medical insurance reimbursement dwindling, and gas prices rising, who couldn’t use a few hundred dollars?
Ara Oghoorian, CFA, CFP® is the president and founder of ACap Asset Management, Inc., a “Fee-Only” investment management firm specializing in working with medical professionals. Contact Ara at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.acapam.com for a complimentary consultation.