Lack of awareness is the main reason for continuously increasing unclaimed assets around the world. Before we explore various ways to recover these assets in USA, let us discuss what is unclaimed assets and how does it work in USA. Please note this article and information present on this is mostly related to USA – many countries do not have any legislation in place to deal with this issue and unclaimed assets usually remain with the organizations in such cases.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrator which represent state government and actively tries to find right owners for various assets –
Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.
When it is not possible for any organization to find right owner for any assets it owns – it is their responsibility to hand over those assets to the state government. At least in USA and UK, organizations are required to disclose any unclaimed property by law.
Unfortunately, this issue is much more complex then it appears. Definition of what can constitute unclaimed assets is different from state to state. Also there are so many other types of assets which are not covered by many state laws. Virtual money, virtual goods, credits, iTunes accounts, PayPal, AdSense and many other accounts could be worth as much as physical accounts. In many cases, organizations are allowed to keep these unclaimed assets and use it in their bottom line.
If you want to get an idea of the scale – have a look at this declaration from treasury on unclaimed money with many US government agencies.
In US, it is possible to search state database or use service like Missing Money to find out if there is any unclaimed money or property in your name. These services are free and can be used by anyone. Since it is a huge market, there are many organizations that can perform these searches on your behalf and will charge fees in the form of commission if they find something.
Many people are using these services to take ownership of the assets which were unclaimed for long time. Still there are billions of dollars in unclaimed assets, because people do not have information about assets and ways to claim them. These services are useful but unfortunately not every country has resources or willingness to implement such services.
These services in US are trying to find the right owner for the unclaimed assets, we on the other hand are trying to reduce the unclaimed assets by ensuring that key information, digital assets and online identities are transferred to right people after death.