What is Escheatment?

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Did you ever forget about an old savings account and wondered where that money went?

Millions of people have forgotten accounts or didn’t realize they had walked away from some fund of money they were entitled to.

When money lies dormant in a deposit account or appears to be abandoned, the bank or other organizations with which the money was deposited aren’t necessarily allowed to just keep that money for their own use.

After a period of time, they’re required to turn it over to the state. This is called escheatment. Once it's turned over to the state for safekeeping, the owner of the money can still access it by making a proper claim for it.

What Funds are Subject to Escheat Rules?

It’s not only money in deposit accounts that will escheated. If you forget to cash a check, that money can be escheated. Likewise, if you don’t claim your wages, that money can also be escheated.

Here are some of the types of property that can go unclaimed and will be escheated: 

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Payroll checks and commission checks
  • Vendor credits
  • Utility deposits
  • Stocks, bonds, dividends, mutual fund and brokerage accounts
  • CDs
  • IRAs
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Annuity contracts
  • Oil and gas or other mineral royalties
  • Tax refunds*
  • Pension benefits

*If it's a federal tax refund, it won't be escheated to the state. Be mindful also that you only have three years to claim a federal tax refund.

When Will the Funds be Turned Over to the State?

The amount of time that passes before the account will be turned over depends on the state. Each state has different periods of time and other requirements for escheatment. The amount of time also depends on the type of money or account that’s being escheated.

Bank accounts, checks, and wages may be subject to different periods.

This chart shows the state and the amount of time after which the bank or other payor will turn the money over to the state.

State

Bank Account  

Checks/Drafts

Wages/Salaries

Alabama

3 years*

1 year

1 year

Alaska

5 years

5 years

1 year

Arizona

3 years

3 years

1 year

Arkansas

3 years

3 years

1 year

California

3 years

3 years

1 year

Colorado

5 years

5 years*

1 year

Connecticut

3 years

3 years*

1 year

Delaware

5 years

5 years

5 years

D.C.

3 years*

3 years

1 year

Florida

5 years

5 years

1 year

Georgia

5 years

5 years

1 year

Hawaii

5 years

5 years

1 year

Idaho

5 years

5 years

1 year

Illinois

5 years

5 years

1 year

Indiana

3 years

3 years

1 year

Iowa

3 years

3 years

1 year

Kansas

5 years

2 years

1 year

Kentucky

3 years

3 years

3 years

Louisiana

5 years

5 years

1 year

Maine

3 years

3 years

1 year

Maryland

3 years

3 years

3 years

Massachusetts

3 years

3 years

3 years

Michigan

3 years

3 years

1 year

Minnesota

3 years

3 years

1 year

Mississippi

5 years

5 years

Not specified

Missouri

5 years

5 years

Not specified

Montana

5 years

5 years

1 year

Nebraska

5 years

5 years

1 year

Nevada

3 years

3 years

1 year

New Hampshire

5 years

5 years

1 year

New Jersey

3 years

3 years

1 year

New Mexico

5 years

5 years

1 year

New York

3 years

3 years

3 years*

North Carolina

5 years

7 years/5 years*

1 year

North Dakota

5 years

2 years*

2 years

Ohio

5 years

5 years

3 years

Oklahoma

5 years

5 years

1 year

Oregon

3 years

3 years

3 years

Pennsylvania

3 years

3 years

2 years

Rhode Island

3 years*

3 years

1 year

South Carolina

5 years

5 years

1 year

South Dakota

3 years

3 years

1 year

Tennessee

5 years

5 years

1 year

Texas

5 years

3 years

1 year

Utah

3 years

3 years

1 year

Vermont

3 years

3 years

1 year

Virginia

5 years

5 years

1 year

Washington

3 years

3 years

1 year

West Virginia

5 years*

5 years

1 year

Wisconsin

5 years

5 years

1 year

Wyoming

5 years

5 years

1 year


*Check out state law for additional requirements.

Fees You May be Charged When Your Funds are Escheated

Banks often do charge fees before they turn the money over to the state. Some charge monthly service fees, like you’re probably familiar with on your checking account, although many banks charge a smaller fee once they determine that the account is dormant or inactive and the balance is small. However some charge a special escheat fee before the money goes to the state.

How to Claim Escheated Funds

Start by searching on a public database like Unclaimed.org or MissingMoney.com. These sites can link you to the unclaimed funds sites for each state, and from there you can search for funds that you might be able to claim. Or, run a search for "unclaimed property in [your state]." If your property is turned over to the state, the state will have a claims process you must undertake to verify that you’re entitled to the money before it will be released to you.

Some require special forms, some allow you to claim online, some require special documents or identification.