If I haven’t seen you in person or spoken with you since the first, Happy New Year!  Today I want to share with you a gem that I recently learned about and have been using with my clients.  My intention is that it will help you recover what you may have lost as a consequence of your disorganization.  For those of you who aren’t the most organized with your papers or move residences a lot, this could be very valuable for you.  Here’s the gist: your state’s comptroller’s office has billions of dollars in unclaimed funds, some of which may be yours that you can reclaim.  New York State, for example, has $12 billion.  I’ve been doing this for clients recently and have found dozens of unclaimed checks that they now have access to.  In some cases, the amounts are small, but in other cases, the amounts are really substantial (think security deposits on an apartment and refunded airline tickets that never found their way to you).  It pains me to say this, but here’s the kicker: the less organized you’ve been about your paperwork and accounts, they more you stand to gain from this system.  Because of my age (and therefore haven’t had as much time to lose track of funds) and my relative organization, I didn’t have any unclaimed funds in the system, and if you’re on top of your paperwork, and/or young, you may not either, but it’s worth the 2 minutes it takes to check.

Why would I have money waiting for me?

Essentially, accounts you’ve lost track of or checks that never made it to you because of change of address, expiration, or mislabeling are being held by the government and can be claimed by you. According to the New York State Comptroller’s website: “State law requires banks, insurance companies, utilities, and other businesses to turn dormant savings accounts, unclaimed insurance and stock dividends, and other inactive holdings over to the State. If there has been no activity in the account for a set period of time, usually between two and five years, your money is considered unclaimed or abandoned.”

For example:

  • Bank accounts that you’ve forgotten about with remaining balances (like savings accounts for children)
  • Uncashed checks from companies (perhaps expired checks still sitting in one of those piles you’ve been meaning to go through?)
  • Refunds and checks send to a previous address or mislabeled address that never made their way to you. (This week I found a number of checks written to apartment number 86 instead of 8G, where my client lives.  They never made it to my client because of the mislabeling, but luckily, instead of disappearing or being send back to the company, the state has been holding onto the money and now my client has claimed it.)
  • Investment accounts
  • Funds for family members that have passed on and which, as their heir, you can claim.  This requires a copy of the death certificate, and a separate form proving that you are the rightful heir, which takes just a few moments.
  • Click here for FAQ about the process.

How do I learn more about my unclaimed funds?

  • Go to your state’s comptroller’s office’s website and look for a link to unclaimed funds or property.   New Yorkers, click here.
  • If the funds are in your name and for your current address, you can claim them online by entering identifying information, like your SSN and birthday.
  • If the funds are not in your legal name or for a previous address, you need to complete a mail-in form to prove that you are who you say you are and rightfully entitled to the funds (takes 5 minutes, but then must be notarized)


Having personally submitted many of these mail-in forms for clients, I’ve come across many common reasons requiring you to complete the mail-in form.

  • Many checks are made out to your reverse name.  For example, instead of being made out to “Sarah Stimson”, it would be under “Stimson Sarah,” in which case, I need to fill out the mail-in form to prove that I, Sarah Stimson, am indeed Stimson Sarah, and that the check belongs to me.
  • Check for common misspellings of your name. I searched Sarah Simpson, Sarah Stimon, Sara Stimson, Sarah Stinson, etc.  Harken back to all the ways your name has been misspelled on a starbuck coffee cup, and try those.  Also try leaving out your first name; I found several checks for my clients in which the first name was simply dropped that didn’t show up when I included the first name in the search.
  • Some states, like Ohio, will tell you if the check is over or under $100, in which case you can decide if it’s worth your time to claim it.  New York, unfortunately doesn’t do this, so you don’t find out how much the fund is for until you can prove you are entitled to it and it is mailed to you. But the surprise is part of the fun, right?
  • This works for unclaimed funds for businesses you own, too!

I’m really curious about how helpful this is for my readers.  If you decide to check this out and find that you do, in fact, have lot money to recover, please let me know!  I’d love to hear about how much you were able to gain from this!

On a final note, I’d like to remind everyone that once you’ve claimed all that is owed to you that may have been the result of disorganization, to then put in place a system for managing your mail and accounts.  Check out my recent blog post on organizing your accounts and clearly designate a place in your home to put checks that need to be deposited so that they don’t become a casualty of the “piling” system.


Happy Organizing!





P.S. Speaking of government services, here’s a friendly reminder that on January 26th stamps increase from 46 cents to 49 cents, so stock up on forever stamps!