How to Avoid and Claim Abandoned Bank Accounts
This guide will help you to find and claim unclaimed property and bank accounts.
Life happens fast and sometimes our most important assets get lost in the churn of moving pieces. This means that we have or have had bank accounts that have ended up abandoned and lost to time. Never fear, Dear Reader, we’ll help you to locate these accounts if you have one. We will also show you where to claim your abandoned funds.
We’ll also look into “Zombie” accounts that could be harming you or your credit!
It is very important to grasp your entire financial picture. Bank accounts are a great place to start.
Unclaimed Bank Accounts
HelpWithmyBank.gov states that an inactive bank account is defined as having no user initiated activity or contact for a period of 3-5 years.
HelpWithMyBank.gov is run by the U.S. Dept. of The Treasury. Here is the process of banks notifying you that an account is abandoned:
“Some states require the bank to notify the account holder before they transfer the funds. The bank may be trying to alert you that your account is inactive and if the account remains inactive, it may be escheated to the state. The letter usually explains the actions that the account holder may take to affirm their account and to prevent the transfer of the balance to the state.”
There are myriad reasons why this account may have been left that way, whether from a death, or moving, or simply someone forgot they owned the account.
Think back really hard on all the accounts you’ve opened in your lifetime. I know for a fact I had one of these accounts lying dormant from my business days.
No matter how they became dormant, the bank is required by state law to turn over those funds to the State Treasurer as unclaimed property.
Every state has a different period of time that they require this to happen in, typically 3-5 years. Once the money is forfeited to the State, these unclaimed assets must go through a claims process to be returned.
To find out if you have Unclaimed Bank account funds or any other lost and found funds, visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website.
Old Bank Accounts
Once you are on the NAPUA site, you will have to go to the state that you resided in when your account went inactive. They will then redirect you to the states Unclaimed Property division to see if you truly have unclaimed money.
Most states will have you enter your name or business name that the abandoned bank account may have been in.
If there are too many results or if you have a common name, having the account number will narrow your search.
Once you have located the missing funds, you will have to claim them by providing proof of ownership.
The Process Of Claiming Unclaimed Property
I went through the process while researching this article and look what I found!
It seems as though I had some leftover wages that went unpaid and now I can claim them!
In my case I had to go through the South Dakota Unclaimed Property Division to locate and lay claim to these funds.
You must tell them who you are, including Social Security Number, to start the claim process.
They should be able to walk you through step by step to help you reclaim your old bank accounts or any other unclaimed property you may have.
Once you have given them all of your info and laid claim to the property, you must sign a form digitally like this:
Make sure you check with your state about the specifics.
I was directed to prove my identity via email or direct mail after signing this form.
I received an email with these directions:
They didn’t give me a time frame on when I’ll get my funds. Once I complete the form they can start processing the claim.
Give me my money!
How To Avoid Abandoned Bank Accounts
You could and should avoid letting your bank accounts go into this status. The claim process as you can see above is very tiresome and we don’t know when we’ll see those funds again.
The red tape of going through your State to get your unclaimed money is not ideal. How do you avoid this process altogether?
- Remain active in the account– This doesn’t always mean just making deposits. Some banks require that you also make withdrawals.
- Review your accounts– Make the effort to close any unused accounts and transfer that money into accounts you use regularly.
- Keep your information updated– Tell your bank where you are and how to reach you, they will try that before sending your funds to the state.
Stay on top of your accounts, not only does this help you track your finances better, but you avoid a situation where your money goes unclaimed.
Zombie bank accounts are accounts that are reopened after new activity in the account.
You close an account, but a new transaction or deposit forces the bank to reopen the account.
While you closed it properly, the bank will see that the new funds coming in as new activity, and then continue viewing that account as live.
In the long run this could hurt you by affecting your credit if they start to charge fees due to inactivity or service charges.
Zombie accounts are difficult to detect after they have been reopened. Especially if you have moved and the bank doesn’t have your current information.
Avoid getting into this situation when closing the account by stopping all transactions coming in or out of the account. This won’t give the bank the opportunity to re open the account on your behalf.
Continue to check up on the account, give it 6-12 months just to be sure.
If your credit was dinged by one of the accounts, you will have to make it right by closing the account again and paying those accrued fees.
It is always better to be proactive and take the proper steps when closing the account.
Simplify your finances to stay on top of these accounts.
Start in states you’ve lived in before. Search for these abandoned bank account or unclaimed property.
Life has a lot of moving parts and bank accounts can be lost to time. Luckily, the money can be reclaimed and the funds returned to you.
Abandoned bank accounts happen too often in our hectic lives. We are proponents of simplifying and having less accounts overall.
But beware of closing accounts and make sure they don’t become a zombie bank account.
Take care of your money so that it can take care of you one day.
Have you gone through the claims process before? Do you have any accounts floating out there?
Let us know, we would love to hear how the process went for you.