How to Find Out If Someone Left You Money When They Died

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There could be some money out there with your name on it. The funds could be unclaimed money from a deceased relative or someone may have named you in their Will. We’re going to explore how to find out if someone left you money when they died.

Unclaimed Money

According to SmartAsset, there is $49 billion in unclaimed funds in the United States. About $3 billion of that is returned to its rightful owners each year, says the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. That leaves $46 billion sitting in limbo in state government coffers. 

Some of this is from forgotten bank accounts, unclaimed or undelivered income tax refunds, and insurance policy payouts. But there are untold cases where people die without a Will or a Trust and the states take control of the assets.

Intestacy Laws

The typical way to inherit money or property is through a Will, where a family member or friend named you as a beneficiary. When a person with a Will dies, the Will goes through the probate court. This process validates the Will and allows the Will’s executor to distribute the assets to the named beneficiaries.

Related: What Happens After I Die? Your Will and the Probate Process

When someone dies without a Last Will and Testament, their estate, and its assets – financial accounts, property, valuables – are taken over by the state through what is known as the intestacy law. A judge decides how to divvy up and distribute the assets to family members and relatives per the intestacy laws of the state. 

That’s why it is imperative that everyone – regardless of age or how much or little you own – has a Will. With this document, you choose what assets you want to bequeath and those you want to inherit them.

A Trust is also a great estate planning tool. This allows you to place and hold property or financial accounts in the Trust that, upon your death, automatically transfer to the beneficiaries you name. A Trust often avoids the probate process.

How to Find Unclaimed Money

There are instances where beneficiaries did not receive their inheritance despite efforts made by an executor or state officials; they cannot be located or may have moved. In some cases, beneficiaries have no idea they were named in a Will. 

If a business or state government cannot locate the owner of assets or funds, they are sent to the state’s unclaimed property office. There are several online sites that can help you search each state’s unclaimed funds. 

One is unclaimed.org that provides direct links to individual states. Just click on the state you want to search and follow the easy instructions.

MissingMoney.com has a multi-state database. You can conduct the search by just entering your name. This site is especially useful if you have moved out-of-state.

Here are specific ways to find out if you were left money by someone when they died or other monies you are unaware of that you may be entitled to:

Beneficiary of a Will

If you’re not sure you were named as a beneficiary in someone’s Will, check with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Since it is a public record, you can request to see the Will’s filing. If you find your name as a beneficiary, contact the executor.

Old Bank Accounts

You may have opened a bank account or a certificate of deposit some years ago and forgot about it. It happens – more often than you think. If you believe you have money in a bank somewhere, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) has an Unclaimed Property Information site where links are available to each state including the District of Columbia to check on unclaimed bank account funds.

Savings Bonds

U.S. Savings Bonds can take decades to mature. It’s easy to see why so many are put in a drawer and totally forgotten about after they are purchased. To help you find if you have an old bond floating around, the U.S. Treasury established the Treasury Hunt site. Here you can search for matured, uncashed bonds issued in 1973 or later.  

Social Security Survivor Benefits

There is $500,000 in unclaimed Social Security benefits including survivor benefits. Unclaimed.com can help you find out if you are an heir to any Social Security Survivor Benefit. Also, a deceased beneficiary may be due a Social Security payment that would go to the next of kin. You can find information and file a claim at Social Security’s Form -1724 site.

Unpaid Wages

If your current or previous employer broke labor laws, you may be entitled to back wages. Visit the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Owed Wages page if you think you may be owed back wages.

Unclaimed Pensions

More than 80,000 people have not claimed their pensions. The government’s PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) can help find pensions of employees of companies that went out of business or ended a pension program.

Tax Refunds

Did you know there is $1.5 billion in unclaimed federal tax refunds? Some are undelivered or lost. Check out IRS’ Where’s My Refund tool to see if you are owed a refund. For unclaimed state income tax refunds, the IRS has a state government site with links to each state.

Bank Failures

There have been a handful of financial institution failures over the years. Search the FDIC’s Unclaimed Funds for bank failures and the National Credit Union Administration’s Unclaimed Deposits for credit unions that were liquidated to see if you have unclaimed money.

Life Insurance

You may be the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and not know it. There are many cases where a loved one or relative names a beneficiary but never tells them. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Life Insurance Policy Locator Service can help start a policy search if you believe you are someone’s life insurance beneficiary.

A Will Protects You and Your Loved Ones

A Will ensures your last wishes are carried out and the assets you want to leave to your loved ones go where they should. Gentreo offers a simple, affordable and state-specific estate plan and a secure, accessible place to store and share it with the Gentreo Digital Family Vault. In addition to providing secure storage for your estate planning documents, you can safely store other important information such as your inventory of assets, to make it easier for your personal representative to access and manage your estate upon your passing. 

Related: How Do You Best Encourage People to Do Estate Planning?

Don’t let your assets end up in the hands of the state and create heartache and stress for your family. A comprehensive estate plan provides peace of mind not only when you pass, but while you are alive.

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