How To Find Unclaimed Money From Deceased Relatives

Finding unclaimed money

Life is full of surprises, including – sometimes – unexpected windfalls of cash. If you, like everyone else, want to maximize the chances that cash will find you, consider researching unclaimed assets, including inheritances. The government estimates there is $80 billion in unclaimed assets waiting for the rightful owners to step forward. You may unknowingly be eligible to find unclaimed money.
Family members don’t always broadcast their account balances, and sometimes accounts exist that they’ve forgotten about. When an individual dies, those accounts can be claimed by family members who are able to prove eligibility for inheriting the sums within. These accounts can be forgotten savings from long-closed banks, accounts holding stocks, mature savings bonds, life insurance policies, employee savings and pension accounts, and the contents of safe deposit boxes. In just a few steps many people have been able to find unclaimed money, including some $3.25 billion restored to rightful heirs in one recent year.

These accounts may include:
•  Veteran’s life insurance accounts;
•  closed bank accounts;
•  unclaimed tax refunds;
•  money owed from a bankruptcy, and
•  closed escrow accounts.

What Happens to Unclaimed Inheritance?

When accounts are unclaimed they generally revert to the division within state government (the state where the individual resided), usually a division within the Secretary of State’s office, where such business is done. Fortunately most states make finding these accounts very easy with searchable websites.
Sometimes it takes a little more digging to find such accounts, including uncashed insurance policies and retirement accounts that were held by employers. In some cases it helps to contact the former employer to ensure that the accounts have been released to the state.
If you find paperwork from insurance policies in your relative’s name, it is worth researching it to ensure that the policies have been liquidated to family members or moved to the appropriate state repository.

Who Can Claim Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives?

Who Can Claim Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives?

If there is unclaimed money held in the name of a deceased relative, that person’s next of kin is generally first in line for the money. The order is usually:

  1. an individual specifically named on the deceased person’s will;
  2. the person’s surviving spouse;
  3. the person’s children;
  4. other relatives related by blood (nieces, nephews, cousins).

Each state or bank or insurance company has its own process for verifying the legal line of inheritance, and it usually requires substantial paperwork and documentation like copies of certified birth certificates that name parents and siblings. This may also include finding relatives by DNA.

How to Search for Unclaimed Money for a Deceased Relative's Names?

It’s best to start with some sort of documentation of the individual’s life, such as a resume that lists where the person worked and lived, which can reveal old accounts held by real estate escrow companies, banks in the area, or employers. 

Steps in the process include:

  1. First, try to find unclaimed money through RecordsFinder’s database
  2. contact former employers;
  3. check tax returns to see if further assets or accounts are mentioned;
  4. check old bank statements to find out if dividend checks were deposited that can indicate hidden investment accounts;
  5. search for a safe deposit box at the banks near where the relative lived to determine if there are any bonds, heirloom items, or documents held in their name; line up documentation of the individual’s identity including birth and death certificates if attempting to claim forgotten funds.

How to Claim Unclaimed Money for a Deceased Relative?

How to Claim Unclaimed Money for a Deceased Relative?

To claim accounts or sums that have been forgotten or abandoned by a person who has died, you must first find the account and then follow the rules of the entity (bank, state, etc) holding the money to prove your legal right to claim the account. If you are a blood relative you have a shot at it, but there may be others in line before you. Many states will divide up an account among all of the blood relatives in cases where there is no clear heir. That means everyone involved must do significant paperwork to prove their identity, including mailing copies of birth certificates and filling out forms. Sometimes it’s worthwhile but in other cases you may do copious paperwork for a very small sum.


How do You Find out if You Have an Unclaimed Inheritance?

If you’re sure there are accounts that are more difficult to find, you may hire a professional investigator to dig for a fee (or a percentage of the total found).

Can You Claim Unclaimed Money That's Not Yours?

Unless you can prove some connection to the individual who the asset belonged to it’s very difficult to claim money from accounts you are not named on. If you are a blood relative it’s much more realistic to assume you may claim the funds.

How do I Find My Deceased Parents' Assets?

To find your deceased parents’ assets, first examine their will, which should list all accounts and provide a line of inheritance. Following that, check for a lockbox that should hold information about investment accounts, bank accounts, and real estate deeds. Also search among known employers and state databases for hidden accounts.
If you are able to locate assets that were not claimed you will have to provide documentation of their death(s), including birth and death certificates as well as your own birth certificate (or adoption papers) showing your blood connection. If you have siblings you are likely to split any account proceeds with them as long as they are alive.