Individual states hold most of the unclaimed property in the U.S. California alone is hanging on to over $8 billion as of February 2016! Not all of that property is cash or stock certificates — some is in the form of items like jewelry, coins, actual gold and silver — anything that may have been being held by a bank, insurance company, a brokerage firm or other investment company, etc.
Any property not claimed after three years must by law go to the state. They then work to find the rightful owners and help people find what is theirs. The State Controller runs a large database of all items in its stash of unclaimed goods. And it’s surprisingly easy to find out if unclaimed property is in your name. You can even search the name of relatives and claim property to which you are the heir. Is there unclaimed money in California for you?
Could be yes! There is for almost 32.5 million people, businesses and groups. See just how easy it is to know if California has any money in your name - without filling out a long form or providing a lot of information about yourself.
It is an easy process to search for unclaimed money in this state. However, that doesn’t stop people from trying to convince you to pay—sometimes big cash — to do the search for you. So before we get started we’ll tell you how to avoid getting scammed. Then we show you the 3 Easy Steps to Find Unclaimed Money:
Discover your program today!
Update February 2018 Well — in spite of the efforts they say are made to find rightful owners of unclaimed property held by the state, California just keeps on piling up the dough (aka other people’s money!). They are currently holding a record $8 billion (yes, billion!) —- and 90% of it is actually in cash! Even at a small interest rate, that means the state is earning interest on that cash that must equal more than $14 million per year. And given California’s financial situation, we’re sure those extra millions come in handy. So read carefully and leave no stone unturned looking to claim money that is yours!
Update September 2017 According to a March 2017 report California still is holding around $8 billion (yes, billion) dollars worth of unclaimed property. They and other states claim they work diligently to find rightful owners but if you live in that state have you ever been contacted about property that might be yours? Or seen and add or news report about how to see if they're holding your property? You may have ignored it because you figure maybe the property is just some meaningless souvenir left in a safe deposit box. But according to a recent report a whopping 90% of this property is being held in cash! Wow. Read on find out if some of it is yours!
Update April 2017 A new law in California increases the probability that more owners of certain types of unclaimed property will be located and notified. The law relates to the contents of safe deposit boxes that have been turned over to the state. Previously, the state was only allowed to notify the person in whose name the safe deposit box was held. But many such boxes contain saving bonds and military awards that are in the names of relatives. California currently holds over 138,000 safe deposit boxes. They are now going through the properties and notifying people of the holdings if they can locate them. They have also expanded their database so you can search more records than you could in the past at claimit.ca.gov.
January 2017 Update It’s hard to imagine that the state is terribly motivated to put a lot of effort to find owners of unclaimed property. With more than an estimated $8 billion in their keeping, they get to take a portion of the proceeds and put it right into the State Budget. In fact, each month they take all but $50,000 of the assets and move into the state’s general fund. And the income from that property is reported to now be California’s fifth largest revenue source for its budget. (Since the program started in the 1950’s the state has taken in over $7.2 billion worth of unclaimed assets. We have not seen any report about how much of that value was returned to its owners over that same period.) The Controller has suggested that the legislature should put more resources into the program so that rightful owners can be found. One wonders why the money taken from the holding each month don’t go into increased efforts rather than into the general fund….
May 2016 Update As of early 2016 California was holding $8 billion in unclaimed assets. And the state actually takes $450 million from that and adds it into their budget. A lawsuit was taken to the Supreme Court by lawyers who claimed the state doesn’t do enough to return property to rightful owners. California survived the court challenge but court judge statements made it clear that they would decide in a future case whether the states should be required to do more to return property to owners.
Your Unclaimed Money, Your Search
Don't assume that the state will let you know they're holding money in your name. Though that may not be fair, it's reality. An early 2015 L.A. Times article reports that California makes more than $400 million dollars every year on the unclaimed property (that belongs to people like you) it is holding. This is even the fifth largest source of income for California’s general fund budget! It’s hard to imagine, then, that they are terribly motivated to find the rightful owners of this property, even though that is the law. The report is putting pressure on the state to improve and be more aggressive about finding the rightful owners of this property. The state must pay every valid claim for the property they hold, so it’s worth your time to learn more about how best to search for money that could belong to you.
How long will it take you to retrieve your money or property from the state of California. Hold on to your hat: after going so long without this money, and after filling out all the necessary forms, you could still wait for as much as six months to get your money back. Sounds pretty outrageous but the State Controller’s Office reports that due to the large number of claims they are processing they can take advantage of the law that gives them as much as 180 days to review and verify your claim. If the claim only involves cash (only!) you may get your funds in 30 - 60 days. But if you’re filing as an heir or if there are multiple owners involved in your claim, or if you are a business, you can be sure it will take quite a bit longer.
California Fraud Alert
If you receive an email claiming to be from someone in the Controller’s office, beware. They will probably tell you to get in touch with a lawyer to help you find unclaimed property. This is a scam! The Controller’s office sends no emails to individuals or businesses and it is illegal for others to pretend to be from that office. If you get an email like that, forward it to the Controller’s office because they want to take action on it. Important facts to remember:
- Never respond to these solicitations and never give out personal information.
- There are legal “investigators” who may offer to help you with your search but they are not allowed to charge more than 10% of what they recover (if anything). And they may not collect their payment until after you have actually received your money or other property.
- The property search is free and it is not necessary for you to pay anyone to do it for you.
Update February 2016: The State of California reports that the most common types of unclaimed money they hold include certificates of deposit; estates that may have unknowing or unfound heirs; insurance policies that have matured or have been terminated; bank accounts and also the contents of safe deposit boxes; cashier’s checks and money orders that have never been cashed; stocks and similar properties like mutual funds, bonds and stock dividends; and even things like mineral rights, trust funds, payments for royalties and escrow accounts. And a relatively new claim service allows you to file your claim for unclaimed property online if the value of the property is less than $5000 and you are the sole owner.
3 Easy Steps To Find California Unclaimed Money
- Go to the official Unclaimed Property Search Page.
- Fill in whatever information you have and then click “Search”. The only required item is your last name, but you can refine your search by entering your first name, a middle initial, and a city that you have lived in. (For some great secrets about improving your Search, check out our article Find Unclaimed Money!
If the identifying information looks like it is yours, click on the ID number and it will take you to more details about the property. It will also provide you with a link with instructions on how to file a claim for the property. Basically you have to fill out an “Affirmation Form”, gather some documents needed to prove your identity, and send them to the appropriate office. It will probably take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for you to receive your money or other property.