With flowers blooming, birds chirping, and sunsets stretching later, it's clear that spring has arrived, and with it, spring cleaning! If you're not too busy dusting and scrubbing, we suggest turning an eye to your financial accounts to consider whether it's possible to tidy up. Over time, many people accumulate accounts that outlive their usefulness. It may be a savings account that no longer offers a good rate, a little-used credit card or store account, or old retirement accounts that could be combined and managed more effectively.
Why do this? First of all, you don’t want to lose track of accounts. Make a list – if you don’t have one already – and pare the ones you don’t use. Second, accounts that sit untouched for multiple years run the risk of being labeled "abandoned property" and transferred to a state treasurer's office.
After reviewing your accounts, check with your state treasurer's office to see if any accounts have been transferred to their care. But don't stop there. In certain circumstances such as an unknown address, property will transfer to the home state of the payer. That means if you didn't cash a rebate check from Coca-Cola, your money may be sitting in Delaware's coffers where Coca-Cola is incorporated. In fact, many states see abandoned property (or "escheat property") as a lucrative source of funds. A recent case before the Supreme Court highlighted escheat property as Delaware's third-largest revenue source; Delaware was sued by Pennsylvania and Wisconsin over who could lay claim to uncashed money orders. (Delaware lost, 9-0.)
A good place to start your search for unclaimed property is at missingmoney.com. All but two U.S. states report unclaimed property to this website, which also offers helpful tips on how to claim property. Heirs can file claims for property of deceased relatives with proper documentation. Officially, there's no time limit on how long you have to file a claim unless the property escheats in Idaho or Indiana.
For all your accounts, make sure your money is working for you, not sitting uninvested in a forgotten account. With cash earning good returns now, the numbers can really add up.