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How to claim lost money, property from state

March 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
California is holding more than $5.7 billion of unclaimed money and property, and many people don't even realize they're entitled to it. It's a treasure trove of riches in the state's capital, and you need to know how easy it is to claim lost money and property.

Inside a nondescript building in downtown Sacramento, a stash of jewelry is waiting to be claimed by its rightful owners. The vault also holds bonds, stock certificates, insurance policies, rare coins and even Hollywood memorabilia.

The most common types of unclaimed property are:

  • Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
  • Uncashed cashier's checks or money orders
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Matured or terminated insurance policies
  • Estates
  • Mineral interests and royalty payments, trust funds, and escrow accounts

State Controller John Chiang says the unclaimed money and property is sent to the state when corporations, banks and insurance companies can't find the rightful owners because they've moved or forgot to send a forwarding address, or if the owner dies and heirs have no knowledge of the property.

"It could be personal memorabilia, it could be letters, it could be medallions that we have in the past," said Chiang. "Any items people may store in their safe deposit box."

Finding out if you have unclaimed property takes just seconds. On the state controller website, just input your name. If it's a common name, you can narrow it down to the cities where you've lived.

If your name shows up, you fill out a form and send it the controller's office.

  • It could take up to six months to process your claim
  • If you're owed more than $1,000, you must have it notarized

To search your name or business, just visit the state controller website, or you can call them directly at (800) 992-4647.

To find out how to search for property outside of California, just visit USA.gov, BetterBudgeting.com or MissingMoney.com.