Samurai logo

How to Secure Unclaimed Money in California

By Kyle Kapper

Updated Oct 9, 2023

Unclaimed Money in California

    Have you ever imagined finding forgotten money or discovering vast treasure? While stumbling upon such riches might be a long shot, there's a more realistic way you could unearth a different kind of treasure – unclaimed money. Yes, you read that right! 

    In the bustling state of California, unclaimed funds and property amounting to billions of dollars lie waiting to be reclaimed by their rightful owners. From uncashed checks to dormant bank accounts, these forgotten assets are scattered across the Golden State, just waiting to be discovered.

    In case you are wondering how this cash stacks up to billions, then picture this: you move to a new house and accidentally forget about a security deposit you made with your previous landlord. Or maybe you switch jobs and your old employer owes you a final paycheck that never reached your hands. These are just a couple of scenarios that contribute to the unclaimed funds piling up. 

    Defining Unclaimed Money 

    Unclaimed money, in simple terms, refers to financial assets that have been left untouched by their owners for a certain period, usually around three years. While it might sound perplexing, it's more common than you might assume. 

    In the state, unclaimed property law encompasses various types of financial assets except for real estate. The list includes bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, uncashed checks, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, estates, mineral interests and royalty payments, utility account deposits, and more.

    Additionally, the Office of the State Controller is in charge of collecting unclaimed assets and lost funds. They safeguard these assets until they are claimed.

    What Happens to Unclaimed Money in California?

    Money becomes unclaimed when people move, change jobs, or lose track of accounts, leading to inactivity. The State's laws mandate that corporations, businesses, financial institutions, and insurance companies, also known as holders, must report unclaimed assets to the Office of the State Controller when an account has been dormant for a specific period, usually 3 years. 

    Businesses annually report and turn over millions of dollars to the state when they are unable to contact property owners. This procedure makes sure that the unclaimed properties are safeguarded until the rightful owner claims them.

    Identifying Rightful Owners

    Efforts are made to contact the owners of unclaimed assets. According to the State's law, owners of property that is unclaimed must be contacted by holders before the property is turned over to the State Controller's Office. 

    This move entails notifying the owner in writing at their last known address that their property will soon be transferred to the state. The Office of the State Controller also notifies property owners, allowing them a chance to obtain their belongings directly from the holder prior to transfer.

    A Look at the Numbers

    The state holds unclaimed property worth over $11 billion. One out of three people who search for unclaimed property in their database find something in their name and reacquire it. Every year thousands of people are reunited with their property at no cost and in 2022 alone, the Office of the State Controller restored ownership of $41 million in property to 22,000 individuals. Let's look at some numbers for perspective.

    LocationNumber of PropertiesTotal Value
    Los Angeles2,424$2,700,000

    There could be some long-forgotten cash or property in your name, and you can reacquire it too!

    Investigating Other States

    Unclaimed funds aren't unique to California; it's a nationwide trend that spans the United States. State governments across the country hold onto vast amounts of unclaimed assets, waiting for their rightful owners to come forward. 

    Unclaimed money in Florida is valued at a staggering $2 billion primarily from abandoned bank accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, equities, and trust holdings. According to the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Additionally, if you have any unclaimed property, you are free to reclaim it at any time, at no cost.

    Unclaimed money in New York is valued at $7 billion. The State Comptroller safeguards unclaimed or securities until they are claimed by rightful owners. Search their database, report, and repossess funds that you find in your name.

    If you've lived in multiple states, consider embarking on a multi-state treasure hunt to explore these potential treasure troves.

    Searching for Unclaimed Property

    Searching for unclaimed property can be an exciting and potentially rewarding endeavor. To maximize your chances of finding any unclaimed assets that belong to you, consider the following tips:

    1. Thoroughly Research Different Databases: Unclaimed funds are held by various entities, including state governments, financial institutions, insurance companies, and utility companies. Start by searching the official databases of the state where you currently reside and any other states you have lived in.

    2. Use Multiple Name Variations: When conducting searches, use different variations of your name, including nicknames, maiden names, and common misspellings. This broadens the scope of your search and increases the likelihood of finding matches.

    3. Use Specific Information: Enter your complete name or the property ID number to improve your search. Add more information such as your current or former residences or even the city where you currently reside. 

    4. Check Deceased Relatives: If you've lost a family member, they might have unclaimed assets that are waiting to be claimed. Search their names in the databases as well to report and claim property belonging to them.

    5. Regularly Check for Updates: Make it a habit to search for unclaimed property periodically, ensuring you don't miss any assets.

    Claiming Your Hidden Wealth

    The process of claiming unclaimed property is not only straightforward but also free of charge. You can get your property directly through the State Controller's Office. Here's a summary of some tips:

    • File a Claim: Head to the State Controller's Office website, where you can locate your unclaimed property and initiate the process. If you have questions or are unable to find any property that you are sure remains unclaimed, you can reach out at (800) 992-4647 for assistance.

    • Deceased Owner Claims: If you're an heir, trustee, or personal representative/executor/administrator, you're eligible to file a claim for property belonging to a deceased owner. The documentation required varies, so it's recommended to refer to the filing instructions for specific details.

    • Proof of Name Change: If your name has changed, provide the necessary documents (like marriage certificates or court papers) to verify your ownership.

    What Is The Payment Timeframe?

    After successfully claiming your property, you'll receive a warrant (a state-issued check) in the mail from the State Controller's Office. The payment timeframe varies; while most claims are processed within 180 days, claims involving securities may take longer due to research requirements.

    Additionally, Unclaimed property payments from the State Controller's Office don't have taxes withheld. For specific tax advice, consult your tax advisor.

    Go back to top