Is money tight right now? Here's why checking for unclaimed property could bring a surprise

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If you’re like most Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has put an enormous strain on your personal finances.

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The Labor Department reports that 12.6 million Americans are currently collecting unemployment, a roughly 640% increase from 2019 of 1.7 million. And according to a recent poll, at least half of all people living in America’s four largest cities have either lost their jobs or seen a reduction in their wages or work hours.

It’s no surprise that roughly 14% of Americans have exhausted their emergency savings this year.

Financial hardship can feel insurmountable. But what you might not know is that you could have money waiting for you in state treasuries. That money won’t come from state aid or stimulus checks; it will come from unclaimed property that you may be entitled to that is possessed by the state. Some of that financial property could be yours.

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Unclaimed property can be almost anything, from watches and old coins to family heirlooms or stocks, and even plain old cash in a bank account. Property like this becomes unclaimed after a year or more without any activity or contact with the owner.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) estimates that 1 in 10 Americans have some sort of unclaimed property owed to them by the state.

Once property is designated as unclaimed, state governments take possession of it. At that point, states may use unclaimed money to fund programs or store unclaimed items in treasury vaults. But, in most cases, property remains forever available to be claimed even by a person’s heirs.

But states have a legal obligation to return unclaimed property to its rightful owner. If that owner is you, all it takes is searching state databases for property that you can claim and asking for it.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) estimates that 1 in 10 Americans have some sort of unclaimed property owed to them by the state. Missingmoney.com has compiled asset listings from 41 state databases; your property, and a potential financial windfall, is only one search away.

Sounds too good to be true? Think again.

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NAUPA has identified $41.7 billion in unclaimed property currently sitting in state coffers, with approximately $3 billion in unclaimed funds returned by states annually. The amount of unclaimed property varies state by state, but most states hold an astonishingly large amount of missing money and goods. Kentucky houses $400 million in unclaimed property, while Alabama has just shy of $1 billion and Ohio has a whopping $3.2 billion.

For some Americans, the reward of checking for unclaimed property is enormous. Scott Langbauer, a D.C.-area butcher, found that he was owed over $400,000 from an unclaimed life insurance payout he didn’t even know existed. Larry Hill of Virginia had around $266,000 in an old family bank account.

Not everyone is so lucky, but a lot of people still have something waiting for them in state coffers.

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Illinois has returned a record-breaking $1 billion in unclaimed property over the last five years, and the state estimates that 1 in 4 residents still have missing property or money to claim.

Florida currently has $2 billion in unclaimed property waiting for its rightful owners, and if you live in Florida, odds are about 1 in 5 that some of it might belong to you. In Ohio, where the state currently possesses $3.2 billion in unclaimed property, property claims average about $1,400 in returns.

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Unclaimed department officials in every state are already hard at work trying to return property to American citizens like you.

They’re channeling additional resources to devise new ways to quickly and easily reconnect property owners with their lost or missing possessions & cash.

You owe it to yourself to see if there’s something they can return to you. Who knows what a simple online search might recover?

Check out MissingMoney.com today to see if there may unclaimed funds that are owed to you or your family. One quick search could offer an unexpected windfall.

David Milby is the MissingMoney Program Manager at Avenu.

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