Whether itâ€™s a few dollars in your coat pocket or change in an old piggy bank, everyone loves finding forgotten money. The Commonwealth is currently holding more than $2.4 billion in unclaimed property, and according to the MassachusettsÂ Unclaimed Property Division, under theÂ Office of the State Treasurer, approximately 1 out of every 10 people has unclaimed financial assets. If you think you might be one of them, the Unclaimed Property Division can help you get your cash back.
What Is Unclaimed Property?
Unclaimed propertyÂ is any asset showing no activity for 3 years or more. It does not pertain to real estate, but does include:
- Savings or checking accounts
- Unpaid wages
- Underlying shares
- Customer deposits or overpayments
- Credit balances
- Money orders
- Paid-up life insurance policies
- Benefit checks
UnderÂ Massachusetts Unclaimed Property Law (Massachusetts General Law 200A), businesses and other entities must annuallyÂ report unclaimed propertyÂ and send aÂ due diligence noticeÂ to the last known address of owners with property valued at $100 or more. The letter must be sent at least 60 days before the funds are reported to the Unclaimed Property Division and include:
- A description of the property and any additional identifying information
- A description of the lawâ€™s requirement that holders of unclaimed property report and remit it
- The date the property will be reported to the Unclaimed Property Division if the owner does not respond
If there is no response from the owner, the funds are then reported and handed over to the Unclaimed Property Division. Unclaimed property is not taxable, but it does accrueÂ interestÂ in the Massachusetts General Fund, where it stays until the owner claims it. The division attempts toÂ find ownersÂ through itsÂ outreach programsÂ and byÂ releasing the namesÂ of individuals with more than $100 in assets every 6 months.
The Claim Process
The Unclaimed Property Division is the only legitimate way of claiming your money in Massachusetts, so watch out for imitators and scam sites. The only other place you should search isÂ theÂ National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), where you can search for unclaimed assets almost anywhere in the United States. The process is alwaysÂ freeÂ and there isÂ no time limitÂ for filing. According to Christina Giblin, manager of publication and marketing for the Unclaimed Property Division, there is no limit or minimum on the amount of unclaimed money you can collect.
There are 2 ways to begin. The process can be started by calling the staff of the Unclaimed Property Division at (888) 344-MASS, which will connect you to a customer service representative who can walk you through the process and conduct additional searches. Or, you can search your name and start the claim process on your own, online:
Once youâ€™ve found the property that belongs to you, check the CLAIM button and click the View Claimed Properties button to begin the claims process.
- Once you have selected the property you wish to claim, review it before clicking FILE CLAIM and continuing with the claims process.
- Complete your information as the claimant. This should include your current mailing address, because that will be the address where the funds are mailed. Select your â€˜Relationship to Ownerâ€™ for each property you are claiming.
- For example, if you are the owner of the property, please select â€˜Ownerâ€™; if you are an heir to the propertyâ€™s owner, please select either â€˜Heirâ€™ or â€˜Representative,â€™ depending on the applicable situation. This information will provide you with the appropriate details necessary to claim the property. Click NEXT to move to the Preview screen.
- You may receive an additional screen that asks you to verify the address you entered. This is to ensure we are sending your property to a valid mailing address.
- You will now preview all properties being claimed and verify your current information. If correct, agree to the terms and click SUBMIT to officially create your claim and generate your claim number.
According to Mark William Bracken, assistant treasurer and director of the Unclaimed Property Division, the documents needed to verify a claim can vary greatly depending on the situation and type of property, but in general, about 75 percent of claims require:
- Online claim forms, which are generated from searching your name
- Signature of the claimant
- VerificationÂ of your social security number
It takes approximatelyÂ 12 weeks to process a claim. You mayÂ check the status of your claimÂ at any time throughout the process.
Once the Unclaimed Property Division receives a claim,Â three levels of approvalÂ are needed before your payment is issued:
- Level 1 â€“Â The first step of the approval process determines if you have submitted all necessary documents. If not, a letter will be sent explaining whatâ€™s needed or missing.
- Level 2 â€“Â Claims reach level 2 once the additional documents have been received and officials verify that the correct individual is making the claim.
- Level 3 â€“Â At this point, the claim is approved for payment if all documents have been verified and are in good order.
TheÂ payment of claimsÂ can vary. Individuals with approved cash claims will be paid by check. In the case of stock and mutual fund claims, the appropriate number of shares will be re-registered in the claimantâ€™s name. You should also note that if more than $10 in interest has accrued on your unclaimed property, anÂ Interest Income Form (1099-INT) will be issued for the interest portion of the asset. When filing your taxes, you will need to report the interest youâ€™ve earned on the property.
For assistance with searching your name, initiating the claim process, or any questions,Â contactÂ the Unclaimed Property Division. Start your search today and get your money back.
What would you do with your unclaimed money? Tweet us @MassGov or comment below.
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