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Making Your Money Last

How to Track Down Unclaimed Assets

Check sites such as MissingMoney.com and Unclaimed.org to see if you have any lost money waiting for you.

While I was cleaning out the basement, I found an old American Security and Trust savings passbook with about a $900 balance from more than 40 years ago. The bank doesn’t exist anymore. How can I find out if the account has any value now? - E.L., Lutherville, Md.

Start by tracing the bank’s history through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s BankFind tool. Turns out that after several acquisitions and mergers, American Security and Trust Co. is now part of Bank of America.

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Next, call Bank of America to see if it has a record of your account. Chances of that are slim. Banks usually turn accounts over to the state as unclaimed property after several years have passed without any activity or contact—typically after three to five years for deposit accounts (it’s three years in Maryland), says Betty Riess, of Bank of America. State unclaimed-property divisions also hold uncashed checks for dividends and wages, utility security deposits and uncollected insurance benefits.

Check the unclaimed-property database for the state where the account was opened and the states where you have lived (you’ll find links to each state at www.unclaimed.org). You can also search the databases of 39 states at MissingMoney.com. You may need to ask the state to perform a manual search for accounts as old as yours, says Riess.

If the state is holding the money, you’ll need to provide documentation of your identity and the claim, such as the old passbook, bank statement or canceled checks.

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