Wrapping up a person’s life with one document is difficult and sometimes doesn’t go as planned. Even using a Last Will and creating extensive estate plans doesn’t always cover all of the necessary bases.

In some instances, assets get missed and left out or are purchased after a Last Will was created. Other times, beneficiaries fail to claim their portion of their estate or don’t even know they’re entitled to a gift from the estate. When this occurs, portions of a person’s assets can end up unclaimed.

In this post, we go over how money goes unclaimed, what happens to an inheritance when it is not claimed, and how you can find out if any inheritances are owed to you.

How Does Money Go Unclaimed?

Money can go unclaimed in all sorts of ways and it doesn’t just happen when someone fails to collect their inheritance after a relative passes away.

Unclaimed money from past wages, life insurances, pensions, tax refunds, and more are all examples of how money can be abandoned by a person and then defined as “unclaimed”.

As an example, in 2013, nearly 60 million dollars was left unclaimed by Americans.

In terms of unclaimed inheritances, there are a variety of reasons as to why someone’s estate goes unclaimed.

For instance, it could mean:

  • A beneficiary in the deceased’s Last Will did not accept their gift (or passed away before it was gifted)
  • The asset was left out of the Last Will (perhaps due to error or because that asset wasn’t owned when the Last Will was drafted)
  • The deceased didn’t have a Last Will before passing away (i.e. they died “intestate”)

What Happens to Unclaimed Inheritances?

When you pass away without a Last Will, your property is divided between your heirs in a pre-determined order, often starting with your spouse (if you have one), your children, and so on until you have no living relatives left. If you have no living relatives, your estate becomes state property.

So, if your relative passed away without a Last Will, claiming your inheritance could be as simple as identifying yourself as a rightful heir to their estate with the proper authorities.

Likewise, if your relative had a Last Will but you didn’t claim your inheritance, it might also end up with the state and thus require you to do some digging and come forward in order to retrieve it.

How Do I Search for Unclaimed Inheritances?

If you think you might have an inheritance waiting to be claimed, it’s time to put on your detective hat to find it.

The US Government recommends to first check your state, which you can do using National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

There are also a few other organizations that could help such as missingmoney.com and Bureau of The Fiscal Service.

With the assistance of one of these services, you may be able to find the information—or money—you were looking for.

There isn’t just one service to use, so use your judgment when contacting an agency who specializes in finding your unclaimed cash and returning it to you and, most importantly, be careful of scams.



Finding Your Unclaimed Inheritances

The easiest way to claim your inheritance is to do so during the reading of your relative’s Last Will and Testament. However, attending the reading—or even knowing about it—isn’t possible for everyone, which is why knowing what happens and how to find unclaimed inheritances is important.

Do you have any unclaimed inheritances you are going to search for? Let us know in the comments.

Posted by Ashley Camarneiro

Ashley is an experienced researcher and writer with an interest in real estate, contract, and family law. Before starting at LawDepot in the summer of 2017, Ashley worked as a legal assistant in the corporate and family law sector.