Man holding paper titled "Last Will & Testament"

How to Claim Money from a Deceased Relative

When someone passes on, he or she may leave behind funds that are accessible family members. Because families may not know about the funds, there is a lot of money out there just waiting for someone to claim it. Here we’ll explain how to find the funds, how to claim them, and what happens if the money is never claimed.

Finding the Unclaimed Money
The first thing you need to do is research whether or not there are funds left from a deceased relative. Every state has a registry that records when someone dies with assets left behind. To find your state’s registry, visit the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). On this website, click on your state, and it leads you to either your state’s treasury, comptroller, or auditor’s website. Since each site has a unique process, and you’ll have to follow the directions located on the homepage. At every site, you will need the deceased’s first and last name at minimum.

Another way you can research assets left by a deceased relative is by visiting Missing Money. On this website, you’ll need to input the first and last name of your relative and the state in which he or she lived. From there, the site pulls up all the information it has, including names that match other states. It may also tell you how much is in the trust.

We suggest you use both websites, as one may yield results the other lacks. Also, search using any nicknames or other last names you know. Many women decide to use their maiden names rather than their married names when they invest or put money away.

Claiming the Money
Each state handles the claiming process differently. After you’ve found the information, you need to figure out your state’s statute of limitations. This term means there may be a time limit for how long after the individual’s death you can rightfully claim the property. In some states, there may not be a statute of limitations. However, other states may have a limitation varying from 4 to 50 years. The limitation is easily found using a Google search, for example, “statute of limitations for unclaimed money in Ohio.”

To verify your identity, you are required to bring official documents that prove who you are. Proving who you are is the only way to receive property left by a deceased relative. Your driver’s license and Social Security card are two essential pieces of information that verify who you are, but your state may require other documents. An example of other documents is proof of current mailing address using a pay stub or a utility bill in your name.

There are also several forms you must fill out based on what sort of property your relative had. The name of the form varies by state. At this point, you’ll need the deceased’s death certificate and/or Social Security card. Finally, you need to provide mail from the deceased’s address that is on file with the government if the address isn’t on the death certificate.

As stated before, each state is different, but there should be a detailed guide that will explain how you can claim these funds. For example, California has a PDF that lists everything you’ll need and the steps to follow.
What Happens to Unclaimed Money
What happens to the money if it’s never claimed? If the deceased had a will, an attorney must search for whomever the property was bequeathed to. If there are no heirs, and no one claims the money, the state government in which the deceased lived claims the money. The distribution of the money is different for each state. For example, Maryland will put the money toward the Board of Education unless the deceased was receiving medical care. Then, the money will go to Maryland’s Medical Assistance Program.

Last Updated: February 12, 2016