Trace and claim a lost inheritance

Inheritance Search: Trace and Claim Lost Assets of Deceased Family Members

Find Missing Money and Unclaimed Property

Savings Bonds Bank Accounts IRA & 401k Retirement Life Insurance Stocks & Mutual Funds Pensions

Banks, brokerage firms, life insurance companies, employers and government agencies are holding billions of dollars in unclaimed funds and missing money. Unclaimed property statutes consider financial assets to be abandoned when there has been no contact with the owner over an extended period, generally 1-3 years.

This frequently occurs following an unreported address change or expiration of a postal forwarding order, a name change after marriage or divorce, and after the untimely death of a family member who passed without an updated will.

When owners or heirs fail to claim stock or mutual funds, a bank or credit union account, life insurance policy, IRA or 401k retirement account, or pension benefit over a specified period of time known as the dormancy period, holders transfer the funds to a government trust account in a legal process known as escheat.

Here this money awaits your claim, along with billions of unclaimed dollars held by government agencies themselves - including $17 billion in unredeemed savings bonds, $92 million in undelivered IRS tax refunds, and hundreds of billions of dollars in unclaimed Social Security checks and benefits.

Family members are often unaware they’re entitled to forgotten funds and unclaimed assets owed deceased relatives. It is important that you make a proactive effort to claim this money, holders of unclaimed funds make little effort to locate lost owners and heirs.

Last year alone 2.5 million citizens made successful claims on over $2 billion, an average check of $800. The record payout: $6.1 million ...  Act now!


Find and claim a missing inheritance

To search for missing assets and unclaimed money click on binoculars
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select from list below ...


Unredeemed U.S. Savings Bonds

The value of unredeemed bonds which have reached final maturity and are no longer earning interest currently exceeds $17 billion. With added interest, an unredeemed bond may be worth more than five times the original face value.

Any bond over 40 years old is not currently paying interest. Series E bonds issued December 1965 and later reach final maturity in 30 years; as do Series H and Series EE bonds, and Savings Notes/Freedom Shares issued during the Vietnam War.

Less than 1% of all bondholders – only owners of Series H and HH bonds - are notified when their bonds reach final maturity. All others, including holders of Series EE U.S. Savings Bonds and family members whose deceased relatives may have owned bonds, must take affirmative action to replace or redeem lost or matured securities. 

Note In addition to unredeemed bonds, each year over 15,000 savings bonds and 25,000 savings bond interest payments go undelivered, when the owner moves and fails to provide a forwarding address. To initiate a search go to:  Savings Bond Search


 Unclaimed Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance companies are among the largest holders of unclaimed assets and missing money. Generally it is the responsibility of beneficiaries to notify insurers of a policy owner's death. Because family members and heirs may not be aware a policy exists, or don't know which company issued it, no action is taken. It's estimated as many as one-in-four policies go unpaid on death of the insured.

What happens to insurance payouts that are not claimed by beneficiaries depends on what type of policy was issued, and whether or not it was paid-up and in force at the time of death.

Term life insurance covers a designated number of years, while whole life policies span a lifetime. It's important to note polices can be in force even if the payment of premiums has stopped, or if money has been borrowed against the policy. Even cancelled polices can have some residual value based upon what type of non-forfeiture option is selected at the time of purchase.

If a whole life policy was in force - either because it was fully paid or because premiums were current until death - beneficiaries receive the full policy value. There is no time limit on claiming a payout when the insured dies with a policy in force. If a claim is not made until some years after death, accrued interest is added.
To initiate a trace go to: Life Insurance Policy Search


► Missing IRA Individual Retirement Accounts

Approximately 50 million Americans own Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) worth an estimated $3 trillion. Types of IRAs include: Traditional IRA & Roth IRA; 401(k) Rollover IRA; Coverdell Education IRA, Medical IRA - Health Savings Accounts (HSA); SEP (Simplified Employee Pensions) & SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees).

About half of all IRAs are administered by and invested in various mutual funds. One-third are held in brokerage accounts, while bank deposits and life insurance annuities account for the remainder. Due to the long term nature of this type of investment, each year large numbers of owners and heirs - who may not be aware of a deceased family member's IRA or roll-over 401k - fail to claim accounts to which they're entitled.

If withdrawals are not made by age 70˝, or in some cases 59˝, Individual Retirement Accounts may be considered unclaimed and abandoned. To track down a missing IRA go to: IRA Search


 Unclaimed 401k Retirement Plan Assets

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates each year tens of thousands of workers fail to claim or rollover $850 million in 401k retirement plan assets when they change jobs. A disproportionate share of the unclaimed 401k assets are owed family members of deceased employees who fail to claim pension benefits stemming from employment that may have ended years earlier. 

Participants in defined-contribution retirement plans such as the 401(k), by virtue of the fact they own the underlying investments, are entitled to the funds when they switch jobs, and if their employers fail or otherwise cease operations. This differs from accrued benefits of employees with traditional defined-benefit pension plans, which are subject to the solvency of the employer and status of their employment.

The financial institutions holding unclaimed 401K assets - banks and brokerages appointed by the plan administrator - make little if any effort to locate lost employees and missing retirement plan participants, because by law their responsibility is to the company, not the employee. If you have reason to believe you are entitled to claim a missing 401k, either as the employee, spouse or rightful heir, but have not received payment, go to: 401(k) Search


 CD's, Bank and Credit Union Accounts

Every year billions of dollars in bank and credit union checking and savings accounts, CDs, and safe deposit boxes are lost, forgotten or unclaimed. By statute, accounts are considered dormant and abandoned when you do not make a deposit or withdrawal over an extended period, allow a CD to automatically rollover, even  when a statement or other official bank correspondence is returned by the post office as undeliverable.

Frequently this happens after the death of a family member, name changes following marriage or divorce, and the expiration of a mail forwarding order after a move. Did you or a family member have unclaimed money at a bank that moved, changed its name or closed? Don't assume that because your bank, savings and loan or credit union no longer exists that unclaimed funds are lost forever.

The funds may have been transferred to a another bank a merger or acquisition. Even if your bank or credit union failed and closed its doors, you may still be entitled to collect insurance proceeds up to $250,000 per account. Unclaimed cash may be recovered after years of inactivity, even if a passbook is lost or destroyed. Go to: Bank Account Search


 Safe Deposit Boxes

Confidentiality concerns, both on the part of owners and the institutions where safe deposit boxes are located, make this type of asset one that commonly goes unclaimed by family members and heirs.

If you where the box was held but the branch no longer exists, don't assume the contents are lost forever, they may have been transferred to a successor institution. Even if you don't know, it's still possible to find and claim its contents, as boxes with expired leases and delinquent rental payments are transferred to a government custodian. To initiate a search go to: Safe Deposit Box Search


 Stocks, Bonds and Mutual Funds

The SEC estimates 3 million lost stockholders are entitled to unclaimed stock and mutual funds worth $10 billion. Additionally, $500 million in stock dividends and bond interest payments are not cashed each year. A wave of corporate mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, share spin-offs and company name changes has dramatically increased the amount of lost stock and unclaimed dividends.

Stock can be registered in the name of the owner, the "shareholder of record," or it can be registered in "street name," the name of your stock broker. Shareholders of record receive distributions and official correspondence directly from the company or transfer agent. Beneficial owners -  those whose shares are held in street name - have dividends and interest payments sent to a bank or broker.

If stock or mutual fund shares were owned by a deceased family member, you may never receive notice of unclaimed funds. Did a deceased relative invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds? Were stock certificates lost or destroyed? In most cases they can be replaced. Even if a stock or mutual fund is no longer listed on an exchange do not assume it's worthless - shares may still have significant value, even if a company filed bankruptcy.

Also, if you're a stockholder in a company that merged or was acquired, you may be entitled to collect spin-off shares or cash distributions from the restructuring, even if shares were sold long ago. Former owners of AT&T, for example, may be eligible to receive shares in nearly a dozen other companies. Go to: Stock Search


 Pensions

There are two main types of pensions: defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans.  Defined Benefit plan provides participants with a specified monthly benefit at retirement, generally calculated using a formula based on salary and length of service. The employer assumes responsibility for ensuring sufficient funds are available to issue monthly checks to those entitled, as well as making payments to spouses for members whose plans include survivor's benefits.

Eligibility for retirement benefits is determined by whether an individual is vested or not. Vesting is the point at which a participant's entitlement is secure, and is usually based on length of service. Prior to the mid-1970s, most private pension plans required 20 years before vesting occurred. The average time period decreased to about 10 years in the mid-80s, and currently stands at about 5 years.

Pension plan administrators are often unable to locate lost employees or missing beneficiaries who have moved or changed name over the years, and companies owing unclaimed pension benefits may have moved, change name or merged, making them difficult to find. Because many defined-benefit private pension plans are federally insured - even if a company dissolved or went bankrupt - it may be possible to receive unclaimed benefits. Go to: Pension Search

Special rules apply for government pensions, veterans pensions and railroad employee pensions.

 TSP and Government Pensions  Records on two million former Civil Service workers are not automated, but rather stored in some 35,000 file cabinets by alphabetical order. This system does not permit sorting by age, a likely indicator of unclaimed and unpaid benefits. Unclaimed government retirement funds are not declared abandoned unless unclaimed by the employee's 115th birthday or 30 years after death; but virtually no effort is made to find lost employees owed government pension benefits. Go to Government Pension Search

Veteran Pension Benefits  The VA provides veterans and their families with supplemental income through the Veterans Pension and Survivors Pension programs. VA offers two broad categories of pension benefit programs: Veterans Pension: Tax-free monetary benefit payable to low-income wartime Veterans. Survivors Pension: Tax-free monetary benefit payable to a low-income, un-remarried surviving spouse and/or unmarried child(ren) of a deceased Veteran with wartime service. Go to Veterans Pension Search

Railroad Retirement Benefits  The Railroad Retirement Act replaces Social Security for railroad employees, providing payment of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. Monthly benefits are payable to surviving widows, children, and certain other dependents at the time of death of a covered railroad employee. The Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act also provides unemployment and sickness benefits for railroad employees, replacing unemployment insurance. Currently 818,000 railroad retirees and heirs are eligible for benefits, but five percent of addresses on file are not current, because workers or family members have not made the proper notification. Go to: Railroad Retirement Search


 Life Insurance Demutualization Compensation

Over the last fifteen years many of the nation's largest life insurers have demutualized, including Prudential, John Hancock, Metropolitan Life (MetLife), Equitable, Principal, Nationwide, Mutual of New York (MONY) and others.

Demutualization is the process of converting a mutual life insurance company is owned by policyholders into a publicly traded stock company owned by shareholders, pursuant to a plan of conversion approved by policyholders and government regulators.

Policyholders, beneficiaries and heirs continue to be entitled to receive policy benefits due, but in addition receive stock and cash in exchange for their ownership interest. The windfall arising from demutualization can be substantial - often tens of thousands of dollars - but millions of missing policyholders and heirs have not made claims.

When John Hancock demutualized, it did not have current addressed for 400,000 policyholders. Prudential could not find 1.2 million policyholders entitled to receive compensation, and MetLife estimates 60 million shares of stock arising from its demutualization - worth billions of dollars - went unclaimed. Contact efforts were unsuccessful, due to name changes after marriage or divorce, unreported changes of address, expired postal forwarding orders and non-current beneficiary information. To determine eligibility go to: Demutualization Claims Search


 Missing, Destroyed and Uncashed Checks

Checks often go uncashed after they are lost or destroyed, returned by the post office as undeliverable, or because the payee simply forgets to present them for payment.

Failure to cash or deposit a check does not terminate your right to the funds and the issuer's responsibility to pay. This is generally true even if a check specifies a 'void-after' date. If you never received a check you can obtain a replacement. If you did receive a check, but for one reason or another never cashed it or deposited it to your bank account, you are still entitled to the funds. To replace lost, destroyed or stale-dated checks Go to: Uncashed Check Refunds

Checks issued by government agencies are subject to special rules. For government checks select from the following:  

Social Security II IRS Refunds II HUD Refunds II Indian Trust Funds II Child Support II Bankruptcies II VA Benefits


 Royalties and Residuals

A mineral royalty is a payment to the owner of the mineral rights for the privilege of extracting the mineral commodity. Mineral royalties often go unclaimed when a landowner moves and fails to provide an updated address, or upon death, if the legal heirs fail to notify the oil, gas or mining company. Texas alone has $400 million available for claim.

Unclaimed royalties are often easily forgotten by heirs, because most oil and gas companies wait until certain minimum payments accrue before they will issue a check. If an individual mineral owner has only a small share of the royalties on a well or mine, checks may be sent only every few months, or even once a year.

Further complicating matters is the fact a royalty producing oil or gas well may be pooled with other interests, and may be some distance away from the actual landholding. If you believe you or a deceased family member may be entitled to unclaimed royalties go to: Mineral Royalty Search

For other royalty and residual payments select from the following: For royalty and residual checks:

Musician Royalties II Screen Actor Residuals II Author Royalties



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