Americans in These States Are Missing a Shocking Amount of Money

Most people would be appalled at the idea of letting even a single cent of their money be willfully misplaced, but the truth is Americans abandon billions of dollars of unclaimed property every year without knowing it. While unclaimed property could be a myriad of things, it’s most commonly in the form of bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, insurance proceeds, utility deposits, and uncashed checks. Although the term “property” can misleading, unclaimed property does not include real estate or vehicles. Each state government oversees the handling of unclaimed property within the state and its ultimate goal is to return the property to the original owners or the heirs of its original owners.

While it may seem odd that a company could end up in possession of property that they’re unable to return to the original owner, it’s actually extremely common. If someone moved, for example, and neglected to update their address with a financial institution, it’s entirely possible that business would be unable to contact the account holder. All property is subject to a dormancy period, or a period of time the holder is unable to contact the owner, which is typically between three to five years. After that period is up, businesses must report the abandoned property to the state government. It’s usually easy to find out if you or someone you know has unclaimed property and could result in a surprise payday for some. Ahead, we countdown which states have the most unclaimed property using data from Simple.Thrifty.Living. The state at no. 1 has an average of $704.85 per resident and an $8 million estate that is still unclaimed.

15. Washington

downtown Seattle

Seattle, Washington | RomanKhomlyak/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $830 million
  • Average amount per resident: $110.22

The Washington State Department of Revenue notes that the most common types of unclaimed property it holds are unclaimed wages, customer credits, and gift certificates issued before July 1, 2001. The state’s basic unclaimed property laws are very similar to those around the whole country. Property is presumed abandoned if an establishment has been unable to make contact with its rightful owner after a period of three years. But Washington has an added protection for consumers when it comes to gift certificates. The law states that retailers cannot charge any kind of fee for gift certificates issued after July 1, 2004 and that no expirations dates are permitted — arguably allowing consumers more time to use their balances.

Next: One in ten residents have unclaimed property in this state.

14. Missouri

St. Louis downtown

St. Louis, Missouri | f11photo/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $988 million
  • Average amount per resident: $161.02

The Missouri State Treasurer’s website boldly states, “One in ten Missourians have unclaimed property waiting for them.” With approximately 6.1 million residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that’s a lot of people with abandoned property to claim. According to the state treasurer’s website, Missouri has a lengthier dormancy period of five years before an institution or establishment has to turn over the property to the treasurer’s office. It also notes that while the office by law has to occasionally auction off non-monetary property, such as the contents of safe deposit boxes, the proceeds from those auctions are held in the original owner’s name so that they may be claimed by the rightful owner or an heir. Although as of 2010, military medals and honors are excluded from auction or sale.

Next: This state uses unclaimed property for the state school fund.

13. Florida (tie)

Pensacola Florida

Pensacola, Florida | alex grinchenko/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $1 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $46.92

Florida is another state with a longer average dormancy period. According to the Florida Chief Financial Officer, businesses must turn over unclaimed property if they have been unable to contact the owners after five years. What’s particularly interesting about Florida’s unclaimed property laws is that any unclaimed money is deposited into the state school fund and used for public education. However, this doesn’t mean people will never see their money again if they decided they wanted to recoup it. There is no time limit on when someone can claim their abandoned property and they or their heirs are indefinitely entitled to recover the full amount of their unclaimed property at no cost to them.

Next: People in this state can expect to receive back more money than the original account’s value.

12. New Jersey (tie)

New Jersey shoreline

New Jersey shoreline | Creative-Family/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $1 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $110.71

Unclaimed property laws in New Jersey are slightly more varied than other states when it comes to the dormancy period that determines if property has been abandoned. While most property types have a dormancy period of three years, wages or paychecks must be turned over to the state after a one year period and unredeemed gift certificates or store credit doesn’t have to be turned over until after a five year dormancy period. New Jersey also pays interest on unclaimed property so claimants can reasonably expect to receive more money back than was originally owed to them.

Next: Wait too long in this state and you may lose ownership of your property.

11. Arizona (tie)

Scottsdale, Arizona.

Scottsdale, Arizona | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $1 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $140.37

Arizona’s unclaimed property laws are slightly more intricate than in other states. First, the dormancy periods are extremely varied depending on the type of property. Most properties are considered abandoned after 1-3 years, although traveler’s checks have a considerable dormancy period of 15 years. On the other extreme, storage facility sale proceeds have the shortest dormancy period at 90 days. The full list is available from the Arizona Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue also notes that the contents of safe deposit boxes are held for two years after they are turned over to the government and then a notice of sale is posted and the contents are auctioned off. Any proceeds that result from the auction sale are kept in the original owner’s name. The final noteworthy item is that the state observes a 35 year escheatment period meaning that after the state has held the unclaimed property for 35 years, ownership reverts to the state. This is very different from many other states where personal ownership of the property is indefinite and there is no time limit on filing a claim.

Next: This state holds $2 billion in unclaimed property.

10. Georgia (tie)

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline at dusk.

Atlanta, Georgia | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $189.66

The dormancy period in Georgia is dependant on the type of property in question but can be anywhere from 1 to 15 years. According to the state statute, most property is considered abandoned after a period of 5 years. A few notable exceptions are: wages must be remitted one year after the payday, safe deposit boxes must be remitted two years after the drilling date, money orders are considered abandoned seven years from the issue date, and traveler’s checks are considered abandoned 15 from their issue date. The Department of Revenue reminds residents on its website that people do not have to pay an asset recovery service to retrieve their property as it is completely free to do so yourself using the state’s search tool online.

Next: A new website makes filing a claim in this state much easier.

9. Michigan (tie)

Michigan

Lansing, Michigan | Benkrut/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $200.18

While the dormancy period varies by property type in Michigan, most property has a three year dormancy period before it is reported to the state. Michigan made large strides in simplifying the process for claiming property when it launched a brand new website in October 2018, according to a press release. Previously claims had to be made by filling out and mailing in a form, but in an effort to go paperless, the new website creates an easy experience where residents can search for abandoned property, make a claim, and track the status of past claims, among other things.

Next: Individual property under $100 could mean a headache in this state.

8. Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Boston, Massachusetts. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2.4 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $348.03

Massachusetts unclaimed property law states that most property is considered abandoned after a dormancy period of three years. There are some exceptions, like traveler’s checks which aren’t considered abandoned for 15 years. People who have unclaimed property in Massachusetts may find that their property was reported in an “aggregate,” which means the total of the individual property was less than $100 and will require a little more legwork for the original owner to claim. The state website does note that most holders choose to turn individual assets over so it’s less likely claimants will have to go through the extra steps for property that was turned over in aggregates.

Next: Space constraints mean tangible property could be auctioned in this state.

7. Virginia

Northern-Virginia

Lotus Shrine in Buckingham, Virginia | Raghu_Ramaswamy/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2.5 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $293.23

The average dormancy period in Virginia is five years but varies based on property type and can be anywhere from 1-15 years. While the state holds unclaimed money indefinitely, the state website notes that there is limited space for storing tangible items, such as the contents of safe deposit boxes, so there will occasionally be auctions. The proceeds from those auctions are kept for the original owner indefinitely. There are some items that will never be subject to auction like military medals and stock certificates. Virginia also pays interest on unclaimed property if the original account was reported to the treasury as interest bearing. The amount of interest paid depends on the specifics of the original account.

Next: This state pays interest on unclaimed property.

6. Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio | TraceRouda/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2.8 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $239.43

Most property in Ohio is considered abandoned after a dormancy period of 3-5 years. However, things like unclaimed wages only have a one year dormancy period before being turned over to the state. Ohio is one state that pays interest on unclaimed funds and the amount of interest paid is dependant on when the funds were turned in to the state. For example, according to the state’s website, any individual accounts of $25 or more that were turned in from 1968 to July 26, 1991 receive 6% interest paid by the state’s unclaimed funds division.

Next: Many people have unclaimed funds from insurance policies in this state.

5. Illinois

Chicago downtown skyline

Chicago | RudyBalasko/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $2.9 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $227.12

The typical dormancy period for most types of unclaimed property in Illinois is three years, according to the state’s website. The state attempts to contact people with unclaimed property by publishing new names to its Unclaimed Property list twice a year. The treasurer’s website also notes that the state has started initiatives to contact people by mail as well. The website states that there has been an increase in the amount of unclaimed funds reported due to the number of people who purchased insurance policies from door-to-door salesmen in the ’40s and ’50s. Those purchases also made them shareholders in the companies so after the demutualization of companies like Metlife, many policyholders were owed payouts.

Next: The average amount of unclaimed property per resident is just under $250 in this state.

4. Pennsylvania

Philadelphia seen from Camden New Jersey

Philadelphia skyline | Allard1/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $3.2 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $249.53

The dormancy period for most property types in Pennsylvania is three years. Where Pennsylvania breaks from the norm is with wages, which have a two year dormancy period. Many other states only observe a one year dormancy period for unclaimed wages and commissions. The state will store tangible property such as coins and antiques for three years at which point it may be liquidated, according to the state treasury’s website, and the proceeds will then be indefinitely held in the original owner’s name.

Next: This state has a research department to help residents avoid needing third-party asset finders.

3. Texas

San Antonio, Texas, USA downtown skyline.

San Antonio, Texas | Sean Pavone/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $4 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $139.35

The Texas unclaimed property website states that most property is considered abandoned after a period of five years. Like many other states, there is no time limit on when people can claim their funds so the state will hold onto the property indefinitely. In an effort to assist people with finding and claiming their property, Texas has a research department to help find their unclaimed funds. Although the state does also license asset recovery and heir finder companies — and they must be licensed by the state to operate. Those third-party companies can charge up to 10 percent of the value of the recovered property, including any expenses, as a fee for their services. It is completely free to work directly with the state department.

Next: This state gives residents the option to donate their unclaimed funds.

2. California

Long Beach, California

Long Beach, California | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $8 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $201.12

The average dormancy period in California is three years and covers many of the same property types as other states, although generally does include unused gift certificates. California also amended its unclaimed property laws in 2003 so the state no longer pays interest on unclaimed property. The state does offer a unique alternative to simply receiving payment for your unclaimed funds in that claimants can donate their property to the state. If they do not designate a fund for the money to be donated to, it automatically gets put into the state education fund.

Next: This state has an unclaimed estate worth $8 million.

1. New York

Downtown Buffalo New York City Hall Sunny Day

Buffalo, NY | Miklmar/iStock/Getty Images

  • Total amount of unclaimed property: $14 billion
  • Average amount per resident: $704.85

New York has the unique distinction of having one of the largest individual payments in the country. According to the state’s unclaimed funds fact sheet, one person received $5.2 million from a stock claim. The largest unclaimed amount in the state is an $8 million estate. The state does pay interest on interest-bearing accounts for up to five years. The interest rate as of January 2019 is 4%.