Who wouldn’t like to discover we were just a little bit richer than we thought? Uncovering a stash of unclaimed money can be a gratifying experience for even your highest net worth clients. They may appreciate any guidance you give them in this regard.
An estimated $3.2 billion was returned to rightful owners in 2015, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators(NAUPA). Unclaimed money often hides in abandoned bank and investment accounts, uncashed dividend checks and paychecks, tax refunds and funds due from canceled insurance policies.
Based on information on the NAUPA website, here are a few tips for advisors who want to help clients locate and recover unclaimed funds:
- Look online. Missingmoney.com, a site endorsed by NAUPA, lets you search in many states at once, free of charge. If your client’s state of residence is not listed there, unclaimed.org has links to unclaimed-fund programs for each state.
- Be thorough. Search in all states where the client may have lived; funds may have gone missing many decades ago. Search maiden names, trusts or any businesses the client may have owned.
- Include client family members. Performing these searches may be a good way to facilitate an introduction to these family members, who could become future clients.
- Verify before filing. Be sure that the funds in question really belong to your client and not someone with a similar name. Claiming funds that don’t belong to you is fraud. Any money the advisor helps locate must by law necessarily go to the client directly.
- Document carefully. The documents required to complete the claim will vary depending on the amount of money involved and how much information the state already has. Failure to provide proper documentation may delay the processing of your claim; no unclaimed-property administrator wants to pay out funds to anybody other than the rightful owner.
When the amount of money is particularly small, the hassles involved in a claim may not be worth it. But it still may be a good idea (and a fairly easy process) to help conduct searches for unclaimed funds when onboarding new clients, and periodically after that as well.