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Free California Unclaimed Money Lookup
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Our guide helps you find out how to claim unclaimed property in California and the type of money that you might find.
The California State Controller’s Office looks over all of the unclaimed property turned over every year until an owner comes forward. California is one of the only states in the nation that will send notices to property owners. You can still search the California database and look for property if you didn’t get a notice. This database helps you find any type of property, including insurance refunds and utility deposits along with paychecks and business funds. Our ultimate guide to unclaimed money in California goes over the database and how to use it along with unclaimed property laws in California and who can file a claim.
California lists both the owner of the property and the holder of the property in its unclaimed property database. The owner is the individual who can file a claim as the original owner. While you may find your name listed in the database, there’s a chance that you will find one or more accounts that also list a co-owner. The holder is usually the organization or business that held the property for you such as a bank or business.
Stocks and bonds are among some of the unclaimed property that you might see in the database. When you purchase stocks, you should receive a certificate that shows how many you bought and how much you paid. If you lose this certificate, you can still claim your stocks. California can also help you claim stocks and bonds if you lose access to the account that you used to buy and monitor stocks.
Unclaimed property can include any check that lists your name that you did not cash. If you ever had a website and signed up for a program to get money for the ads that you ran on the site, Google might have one or more checks waiting for you. Though Google now requires that your ads bring in $50 or more before it releases a check, the early days of the ad program issued checks more often and for smaller amounts. The employers you worked for and utility companies that you used may have a property for you listed in the California database, too.
We also see property in the database that banks and other financial institutions held for others. Did you have a bank account when you were a child that you assumed disappeared when you moved to a different bank? As long as you left the account open but did not touch it for a year or longer, it will still exist. The bank will contact the Controller’s Office as the official holder and turn it over. Banks can also have safe deposit boxes that they eventually hand over to the state.
Don’t forget about insurance payments, too. Several insurers offer policies that allow loved ones to buy coverage for a baby or toddler. They can cash out the policy if the child passes away to cover funeral costs. If the child reaches the age of 18, they can cash out the policy and get money for college. You may find that someone in your family bought one of these policies and that you have thousands of dollars or more in the database. Insurers can also use the database to list any refunds due to you on your home or auto insurance.
We want to make sure that you know how to find any unclaimed money that belongs to you in California. You can file the simple steps that we outlined below.
Step 1: Visit the California State Controller website to load the Unclaimed Property Search.
Step 2: Type your last name in the appropriate box in the search section. California allows you to add more information such as your first name and middle initial or your city. We recommend using just your last name the first time that you search as some of the property found in the database may misspell your name or leave off your first name. The site may ask that you click a box to prove that you’re a real person to conduct your search.
Step 3: Check out the results to find what property you can claim. If the property has a “P” next to it, this means that you can file electronically. You may see a different letter listed, which means that you cannot claim the property online.
Step 4: Click on the property ID link to view more about the property. This allows you to see the value/amount of the property along with the name and address of the holder. You also get to see the type of property held in your name.
At the bottom of the property page, there is a “Claim” button that allows you to file a claim through the site. This takes you to a new page that automatically adds the property ID number to the claim form. The first box asks if you are the claimant or claiming for another person. You must be the official agent or officer for an organization or the individual’s heir to file. You need to file out other boxes that ask for your social security number and home address. California also requires your phone number and email address. You have the option of showing how you learned about the site, too.
You may find money listed in the California database in the name of a parent who passed away. California allows you to file a claim for that person as long as you are a legal heir or had power of attorney. You need to complete a Claim Affirmation Form that includes your signature. The state requires this form if you want to claim the contents of a safe deposit box or property with a value of $1,000 or more. If the individual had multiple heirs who want to claim the property, they must all complete this form.
California also requires a copy of your photo ID along with proof that you are related to the person if you do not have the same last name along with your social security number. You usually need to provide a copy of the deceased’s death certificate or other evidence that they passed away. As long as you complete the required steps, the Controller’s Office will let you claim the property.
If you have a safe deposit box and do not visit the box for three years or longer, the bank must contact the Controller’s Office. The Office will attempt to contact you and send notice that it will sell the contents at auction. You have 18 months to claim your property before it goes on the auction block. The Controller’s Office will use the funds to cover any past due balance that you had with the bank and pull the balance in a separate account. You can file a claim to get the balance on the account. California has an exception for any property related to the military. Those items will go to the California State Military Museum, which has the legal right to destroy property with no clear value after seven years. California goes to extreme lengths to preserve as much property as possible that it receives from safe deposit boxes.
Not everyone who lives in The Golden State spent their whole lives there. You might move to California for college and decide to work there after you graduate. Others move from California to other states before coming back. Unless you spent your entire life in the state, there’s a good chance that other states have money for you. You can use our guides to other states and find missing money across the country. There are also many websites that can help you find unclaimed property that family members own and funds that you thought no longer exist.
A good example is the U.S. Federal Investments website. Maintained by the Treasury Department, this site offers help for those who know that loved ones bought bonds for them, but they don’t know what happened to those bonds. You can find the steps to claim any bonds issued in your name.
Both the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the National Credit Union Administration can also help. Some people wonder what happens to the money that banks and other financial institutions hold for clients if those banks close. These two websites let you see where your money went and what you need to do to find it whether you worked with a standard bank or a credit union.
Though you likely heard some horror stories about the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS offers lots of help for those who pay taxes. The official website helps you check the status of a refund check and find out what happened to refunds that you never got. You can also find out whether the IRS will let you update your bank account and get an automatic deposit.
Other online resources that we recommend using include:
We recommend looking through the Unclaimed Property Laws and Regulations, which the Controller’s Office makes available online as a PDF guide. It includes information on what insurers can do when they have checks for a former customer and the laws that holders need to follow. You’ll also find helpful information on how to file a claim and what to do if you need to file for a child or someone who passed away. The PDF guide covers all of the situations that you might face as the owner of unclaimed property in California.
You can only file an electronic claim if the property found in the database has a “P” designation. A quick search may reveal an
“N” on the claim. This means that the holder still has possession of the property. Let’s say that the power company has a refund check for you but recently sent a notice to the address that it had on file for you. The company then informed the state of the check, which allowed the property to appear in the database. You can contact the holder and request information on claiming your property. The Controller’s Office will list the property in the database and tell you how to contact the holder but will not show you its size.
Some of the accounts that you see in the database will have an “I” designation. This means that the property is in the process of moving from the holder to the state. Though California will list the property in its database, it will not let you file a claim until the Controller completes the transfer process. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or longer. You can check back every few weeks to see when you can file a claim for that property.
California law requires that all holders maintain accurate records that show any activity on an account. If the account has no activity for a period of three years, the holder must report it to the state and begin the process of turning the property over to the Controller’s Office. The holder must also make clear attempts to notify the owner of the property through mail sent to the address on the account. In many cases, the state becomes responsible for property owned by someone who passed away without telling their heirs about it.
The holder is responsible for sending letters to the owner of a property to tell them that the state will take the property if they do not respond. If you forgot to inform the holder that you moved and never registered your move with the post office, you may never see those notices. The Controller’s Office will also make attempts to find the owner before the property transfers and after the state receives it. As the Office works with the Tax Board, workers can often find your current address. If you no longer live in California though, you likely will not receive a letter. California is not responsible for tracking down the heirs of people who inherited property through their parents or other relatives.
Though you can file a claim for property that lists you as a joint owner with one or more people, it depends on how you divided the property. If the other owner passed away, you often need to present proof of their death. Some people file claims after going through a divorce and need court documents that show they are now the sole owner of the property. California usually does not let you claim the full property. You also have the option of asking the other owner to submit a claim form at the same time that you do. The Controller’s Office will release the property to you both.
A common problem that some come across is that the name shown on the property is different from the name they now have. This may happen because you got married and took your spouse’s last name or went through a divorce and dropped their last name. California asks that you submit a claim with your current information along with official records that show your name changed. You can use a copy of your divorce decree or your marriage certificate.
California law gives the Controller’s Office up to 180 days to get money to an individual after they file a claim. In most cases, you can get your money in no more than 60 days. If you have a claim that involves multiple heirs, it may take the full six months before the state releases your money. You can get an idea of how long it will take through the claim status checker. Most claims appear on this site within 30 days of the owner filling out the form.
When you file a claim online, you have the option of filing it electronically, which can save you some time. The database will automatically add your information to the claim along with the property ID and send it to the Controller’s Office. If you do not want to file electronically, you have the option of asking for a paper claim form. Once the state receives your request, it will send the claim form to the address that you listed. No matter how you claim, you will get a paper check.
The LA Times found that California holds more than $10 billion in unclaimed property. Not only does this include the proceeds from auctions and the interest on stocks, but it also accounts for uncashed checks of all types and insurance payments.
If you want to prevent the Controller’s Office from taking care of your property, make sure that you use all of the accounts in your name at least once a year. You should also respond to any letters or notices that you get from the office. The notices often help you claim property before the holder transfers it. We also recommend that you cash all of your checks as quickly as possible and that you look over your financial records at least once a year.
Heir finders are people who spend their time looking at death records and finding the heirs of those people. They then look for money owed to the deceased that heirs can claim and offer to file claims for them. California does not allow finders to work with heirs and file claims for them. Those finders can only notify the heirs of accounts that they find before the holders turn the money over to the state. Once the Controller’s Office becomes the holder, it will only work with the heirs and not professional finders.
Having a little extra money at the end of the month can help you more than you ever expected. Not only can it help you pay some of your bills, but it gives you a little fun money when times are tough. The California State Controller’s Office makes it easy for you to find unclaimed money and get it faster than you might expect. Our guide helps you find out about filing claims for unclaimed property in The Golden State and locating missing money on the web.
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