Americans have billions of dollars sitting unclaimed in bank accounts, pension funds and state treasuries.  Here’s how to track down any dough you are owed—and exactly how to claim it.

Bank & Brokerage Accounts:     

  1. Request Your Money:  Once your account starts gathering dust—meaning, typically, it has sat untouched for three to five years—banks usually transfer your money to the state of your last known address.  Visit unclaimed.org and follow links to the website of each state where you’ve lived.  If you find a listing in your name, you can request your cash, either via an online form or by mailing in a paper copy.  You can also recover money in a deceased relative’s account if you have proper documentation, such as a death certificate and proof that you’re the executor of the estate.


Life Insurance:

2. Run a Search:  Have you owned a life insurance policy, or do you think a deceased relative had one? It it’s not listed on unclaimed.org, contact the insurer.  Start with the agent who sold the policy, if you have the name.

    If you’re sure a dead relative had a policy but don’t know the insurer’s name, use the Life Insurance Policy Locator at naic.org, a service run by state insurance regulators.  For life insurance policies covering pre-Vietnam-era service members and service-disabled veterans, conduct a search at insurance.va.gov/unclaimedfunds.

Retirement Accounts & Pensions:

3. Get Help:   Should your former employer still be in business, an HR person can connect you with the current administrator of your 401(k) account or pension.  Failing that, visit freeERISA.com (free registration required) to find your old employer’s latest Form 5500, which has contact information for the administrator.  Was your 401 (k) terminated? Check askebsa.dol.gov/abandonedplansearch for contact info.  If your pension plan failed or was shut down, you may still qualify for a payment from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.  Look for your plan at pbgc.gov/search-unclaimed-pensions.

If all of this is fruitless, the nonprofit Pension Rights Center (pensionrights.org) may be able to help.

By Beth Braverman for AARP Magazine, April/May 2019