Your state may owe you hundreds of dollars. It takes less than 2 minutes to check

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Your state could be holding money or property of yours you can claim.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is your state holding onto unclaimed money or property that belongs to you? It could be a refund or cash settlement, a forgotten bank account, an abandoned safe deposit box, an uncashed cashier’s check and money order, wages, an insurance benefit, stocks, bonds or a dividend. To get your money or property from the state, all you have to do is claim it.

While digging into an issue around identity theft, I came across a link to check for unclaimed property with my state. I followed it, and a few minutes later — much to my surprise — I discovered I had $200 in property to claim. I’m not alone. The amount of unclaimed property across the US is significant. In 2019, the average claim paid was $1,780, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. California is holding on to around 57 million unclaimed pieces of property valued at approximately $10.2 billion, according to the state’s website, and in 2020 returned $258 million worth of unclaimed items. New York has even more unclaimed funds, holding on to $16.5 billion in lost or forgotten property; the state returned $126 million worth of property last year. 

We’ll explain why your state may be holding money or other financial assets for you, how to check if you can make a claim and hummer limpo how to recover money for a deceased relative. For more ways the government may owe you money, here’s what to know about stimulus check plus-up payments, seven tax credits for 2020, the expanded child tax credit for up to $3,600 per kid and what we know about student loan debt forgiveness.

Why would my state be holding my money or property in the first place?

Governments or businesses will send unclaimed property or money to a state-run unclaimed property office when they can’t locate the owner. The state office will then hold these items until their owner claims them. 

With most states, finding out if you have any unclaimed property easy. And even better, free. Claiming it can be more work, however, depending on which documents you need to collect and then send to the state to prove you’re the rightful owner.

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How to check for unclaimed money and property with a state

To find out if a state is holding your financial assets that you need to claim, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators lists official websites where you can search for unclaimed property by each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

1. Head to Unclaimed.org and either tap Select your state or province or tap your state on the map. You’ll be sent to the state’s unclaimed property page.

2. Next, enter your information. The page may ask you for your first and last name, middle initial and city. Your last name will most likely be required, but you can try using or skipping the suggested fields to narrow or broaden the results.

You can also search across 39 states at once using the Missing Money website, which is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The search tool is missing 11 states, however: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wyoming.

If your search in either tool turns up that a state is holding property of yours, it’s time to claim it.

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You can search for unclaimed money the state is holding for you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How to claim your missing money

If your search results show that a state is holding some of your money or property, you can submit a claim to get it back. Each state handles claims a little differently. Some will allow you to submit your claim online, while others may require you to mail documentation to support your claim. Among the documents you may need to provide are:

  • A copy of your photo ID
  • A copy of your Social Security card or tax identification number
  • Verification of your current address
  • Documentation relating to the type of property, such as banking records, a cashier’s check or a stock certificate

Can your state take your claimed money to pay an overdue debt?

Depending on the state, if you have an outstanding debt with your state or local government, your payment may be redirected to pay that debt. California, for example, allows its Franchise Tax Board to intercept unclaimed property funds — as well as state lottery money and a tax refund — to cover debts you owe to a state, county or city agency.

How long does it take to get your money?

Don’t expect the claim to happen quickly. The office of the New York State Comptroller said it can take 90 days to process a claim. Florida’s Department of Financial Services also said to expect 90 days for its Division of Unclaimed Property to process a claim. The office of the California State Controller said it can take up to 180 days to return property.

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How to claim money on behalf of a deceased relative

States also allow you to claim property of a deceased relative, and the rules around submitting a claim differ state by state. Generally, in addition to supplying documents to verify your own identity, you may need to submit a death certificate, the deceased’s will and documents showing your relationship to the deceased and your right to claim the property.

For more, here’s what we know about President Joe Biden’s plans for canceling student debt, new ways to pay less for health care and the latest and the bonus money for weekly unemployment checks.