When a bank or other financial account remains inactive long enough, the money gets turned over to the state.
You might ask, who forgets about a bank account? But it happens enough that Florida is holding about $2 billion in unclaimed property, including money and items like watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and other collectibles from unused safe deposit boxes.
The state doesn’t keep the money in a big bank account. Instead, it spends it on schools but pays back the amount (or returns the property) if the rightful owner comes forward. The state also employs investigators to track down account holders.
Last year, the state received about $536 million and returned about $323 million, though some of that was from money received in previous years.
“One of my top priorities ... is returning every cent of unclaimed funds and tangible property in the state to its rightful owners,” said state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Patronis’ office estimates the odds at 1 in 5 that some of it is yours. To find out, go to www.fltreasurehunt.gov and enter your information. You can even check to see if family members or friends have a windfall. If so, the website walks you through the next steps.
Mark Bracken, president of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, recommended checking the website every year. Like most states, Florida updates its list regularly. The state has no time limit on how long a rightful owner has to collect unclaimed property.
“We constantly fight the misconception that people know where their money is,” said Bracken, who also runs Massachusetts’ unclaimed property program, which is holding $3.4 billion. “I say, ‘Hey, if you knew where your money was, I wouldn’t have $3.4 billion in unclaimed property.’”
To check other states, try www.missingmoney.com.
Top 20: The largest unclaimed property amounts in Florida
1. $6.9 million (Miami*)
2. $2.9 million (Miami)
3. $2 million (Lauderhill)
4. $866,604 (Atlantis)
5. $787,640 (Lauderdale-by-the-Sea)
6. $689,142 (Miami)
7. $650,435 (Crescent City)
8. $526,724 (Tampa)
9. $519,374 (Boynton Beach)
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10. $420,358 (Hollywood)
11. $408,702 (Melbourne)
12. $395,263 (Sebring)
13. $393,800 (Tampa)
14. $391,270 (Miami)
15. $385,074 (Miami)
16. $379,496 (Miami Shores)
17. $377,292 (Miami)
18. $362,787 (Hialeah)
19. $356,409 (Fort Lauderdale)
20. $356,101 (Miami)
* The location of the financial institution that turned the money over to the state. Source: Florida Chief Financial Officer
Tips for keeping track of your accounts
- Review your bank and other financial accounts regularly. It may make sense to consolidate accounts if some of them aren’t being used often.
- Set up an automatic deposit or transfer. Even a small amount added every year or two will keep most accounts active. In general, it takes three to five years for an account to become officially dormant.
- Make sure your bank and other financial institutions have your current address. When you move, make updating your address part of your checklist. “The bank is going to reach out to you before they turn the property over to the state,” Bracken said. “But if they have the wrong address, the search can get difficult.”
- Let trusted family members know where you have accounts. That way if something happens to you, they know which institutions to contact.