So much of the news about personal financial identity is so negative and for good reason. Many are trying to take yours. But let me share what might be some good news. I got a phone call from a family member who had received a notice about funds of hers that had been turned over to the State as unclaimed property.
She went online and found that she in fact had over $100 from a prepaid debit card she had in the past but had forgotten about. She then searched most of our family and she found that I had about $23 in unclaimed funds due to an overpayment of utilities. Who knew? I didn’t. So, I completed the online form and a nice dinner out is on its way to me.
So what is unclaimed property? According to the Tennessee Department of Treasury, “unclaimed property is intangible property (un-cashed paychecks, savings accounts) or tangible property (safe deposit box contents), in which there has been no activity generated or contact with the owner for a one-year or longer period at which point it becomes unclaimed or “abandoned.”” (https://treasury.tn.gov/Unclaimed-Property/About-Unclaimed-Property/What-is-Unclaimed-Property)
In other words, let’s say there’s an old savings account you had many years ago. It had a small balance and you just forgot you had it. If you’ve had no contact with that bank for some period of time, they may turn the funds over to the State. The same can be said for items in a safe deposit box. There may have been attempts to reach you but you moved or changed your name, etc. So, the funds sit at the State until claimed. Currently, in Tennessee alone, there is over $976 million in unclaimed property. One in 10 Americans have unclaimed property and likely don’t know. So far, I’ve found that four members of my family had unclaimed property.
So, remember your family members, even those who have passed away. I found that my grandfather, who passed away in 1965, has $140 in unclaimed funds. I plan to get that and donate it to the cemetery where he is buried. Also, take into consideration if you’ve lived in other states. Each state has its own unclaimed property site and processes. You’ll want to search their websites as well.
It was easy to check. I went to https://www.claimittn.gov/Search/DoSearch and searched my name, filled out a very easy form and now I’ll await my check. By the way, in Tennessee, there are no fees so you will get 100 percent of what is due. Be aware though of any estate implications. You’ll want to check with our accountant if the amount unclaimed is left over from an estate or from someone who has passed away with no estate.
This was all great but there are larger lessons. Stay in touch with your bank and make sure they know when you move. Keep up with your finances and read the notices sent to you by legitimate sources (utilities, banks, former employers, etc). Also, have that difficult conversation with family members. Make sure someone knows where their funds are kept and where they may have a safe deposit box just in case.
It was fun to start the new year with a small amount I didn’t know I had. So, a very popular chicken sandwich is in my near future. Maybe it will be for you as well.
Frank Freels, Jr. is the senior vice president, security officer of Volunteer State Bank.