Luke Davis: Claiming what is owed to you

The Examiner

During a time in this country when many are struggling financially, It may be hard to believe but there are thousands of people in Missouri alone who are owed money and don’t even realize it. According to a recent study by Smartasset, there is approximately $49.5 billion of unclaimed property in the United States. According to that same study over 1 billion of those dollars belong to residents of Kansas or Missouri.

Luke Davis

The original source of these funds can vary. The most common causes include accounts that have been abandoned or forgotten about. 401(k)s and bank accounts where the current location of the owner is unknown are often turned over to the state as unclaimed property. Insurance or inheritance payouts are also commonly sent to these state treasury accounts to wait for the rightful owner to appear and claim them.

In case you’re curious to see if you,or someone you know is owed money, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has worked with various state governments to consolidate unclaimed property into a single searchable database. Currently 41 states including Missouri use the website as a way for residents to see if they have unclaimed funds available to them. A quick search of both myself and my wife’s name unearthed an unclaimed asset in the amount of $18 owed to us. Filing a claim is very simple on the site. After providing some basic personal information I was able to print a claim form that I simply send in to the state of Missouri to receive my cash.

While I will admit $18 isn’t a ton of money, as close of attention as I pay to my finances, it really surprised me that I had any unclaimed money out there. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Who knows – you may discover a long-lost relative who left you a small fortune without you even knowing it.

Often the death of a loved one is the cause of property going unclaimed. There is simply no excuse for this. Regardless of your age or your health, everyone should have clear directives in place for who gets what and where those things are located. We recommend to our clients they set up a legacy box that contains everything an individual would need to execute an individual’s final wishes.

This box should contain things such as wills, deeds, insurance policies, and the exact location of other valuables like bank accounts or physical property. I personally recommend you spend a few dollars to store these items in a fireproof and waterproof box and let several trusted people know of the exact location of this box. It is also vitally important to keep beneficiaries on accounts and insurance policies current, and whenever possible to communicate to them your intentions of making them a beneficiary.

Whether it’s doing a search to find unclaimed property owed to you, or taking steps to ensure your property never goes unclaimed by someone else, let’s all do our part to reduce the amount of unclaimed property in Jefferson City. After all, we don’t work this hard for the things we have just to find them forever abandoned in a government account.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The advice is general in nature and not intended for specific situations.)

Luke Davis is the director of operations and compliance at Stewardship Capital in Independence.