According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), states are collectively holding on to approximately $41.7 billion in unclaimed assets, including dormant bank accounts, stock splits, life insurance payouts, gift cards and uncashed payroll checks among other funds. This is up 27% from $32.8 billion in 2010.
Consistent with the nationwide trend, unclaimed monies in the District have shown a modest increase over the course of the last 10 years. As of the end of FY 2015, total unclaimed funds in the District amounted to $300 million corresponding to approximately 1.4 million account records. The proportion of claims paid out to rightful owners has also picked up since FY 2012. Below is a chart depicting this trend.
If you haven’t heard of unclaimed properties before, here is a simple description: if banks, insurance companies, credit unions, pensions and similar entities owe you money or other financial assets and you do not collect it, then it’s called unclaimed. These assets could be checking accounts, certificates of deposit, customer deposits and over-payments, gift certificates, paid-up life insurance policies, unpaid wages, insurance payments, money orders, refunds, saving accounts, proceeds of safety deposit box auctions, etc.
By law, all these entities have an obligation to remit the unclaimed property in their possession to the appropriate state(s). The idea is that the property is not theirs, and that states have more resources for finding the individual or company that has ownership. However, if no owner is found, states get to keep the property. In the District, all funds received by the Unclaimed Property Unit are deposited into the District’s General Fund. Although the money belongs to the owners, who may claim it at any time, the funds may be used in the interim to help defray the District’s operating costs.
Below are few statistical highlights that we thought would help increase public awareness of unclaimed properties in DC and nationwide.
- In FY 2011 (also see the chart above), a record $22 million was returned to the rightful owners by the District. This was the largest total claim payment ever in a fiscal year.
- The largest claim ever paid to an individual also occurred in FY 2011, about $1.2 million. This may also be an effect of the last recession, as people tend to look for missing monies during economic hard times.
- The number of claims in the District has increased by 89% during the last 10 years whereas the number of accounts remitted rose by well over 100%.
In the District, uncashed checks and forgotten account balances seem to constitute the largest sum of unclaimed properties, whereas nationwide, orphaned 401(k) accounts (401 accounts forgotten by employees after they leave their job) are reported to bring in the most.
- In a nationwide survey done in the year 2014, the State of New York topped the list with $12 billion unclaimed funds reported statewide. Our neighboring state Virginia stood 10th during that year. Below is a table showing where DC and neighboring states stand as of the end of FY 2015.
|Estimated amount of Unclaimed Funds as of the end of FY 2015 (in millions)||
So, if you think you might be missing money, you may start your search with www.Unclaimed.org or http://www.missingmoney.com which would direct you to the appropriate state unclaimed property website.
What exactly is this data? The above analysis is based on historical Unclaimed Property Remittance and Claim Payment data obtained from the District’s Office of Finance and Treasury-Unclaimed Property Division. States have different unclaimed property laws that dictate how they are reported and accounted for. The FY 2015 Unclaimed Property fund balance data was obtained from each state’s Unclaimed Property Offices. The District’s unclaimed property laws are available at D.C. Code § 41-101 and § 42-201. The nationwide data was obtained from newsletters published by NAUPA and also available at www.Unclaimed.org.