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Those who discover they are owed missing money might feel like they hit the jackpot -- until they try to navigate the complex rules and regulations required to reclaim it. Claimants are often forced to hunt for decades-old documents to prove ownership, said Mary Pitman, author of "The Little Book of Missing Money. But after sending in a claim, she was told she had to reopen her mother's estate -- something she couldn't afford.

Last year, McGuire decided to try again. But even after her lawyer obtained the estate paperwork and a court order demanding Michigan turn over the funds, her claim was denied. The problem was McGuire didn't have the paperwork the state required proving her mother had been the rightful owner of the investment account.

How to find unclaimed money (and unclaimed property)

McGuire's lawyer, Dan Carbone, said the surety bond option seems unnecessary. Unfortunately, some cases are not clean cut, said Beth Pearce, Vermont state treasurer and the president of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

In Delaware, for example, unclaimed property has become "a vital element supporting the state's operating budget," according to a state budget document. Related: Celebrities' unclaimed cash: Obama, Zuckerberg and more. A common type of unclaimed property are shares in company stock that are considered "abandoned. If a tracer asks you to pay money up front, don't pay anything. Reputable tracers always work on a percentage basis and get paid after you receive your money, not before. Also beware of the Nigeria scam, in which someone sends you a forged cashiers check for greater than the amount due you and asks for you to send them the difference.

It can take a week or two for the forged check to bounce, but they will have already absconded with the money you sent them. Never ever pay any money up front to recover your assets. Wait until a month after the check clears before paying the finder's fee. Also, the payment to you will come from a reputable source, such as the state treasurer's office. You should also beware of outfits which charge a flat fee for nothing more than a list of unclaimed property offices.

UNCLAIMED MONEY How to File a Claim?

The Securities and Exchange Commission SEC says that old stock and bond certificates may still have value, even if the company has changed names or merged with another company. They recommend contacting the transfer agent for the stock or bond certificate. Usually, the transfer agent's name will be printed on the certificate.

Infographic: Four Tips to Find Unclaimed Money

If the transfer agent no longer exists, try contacting the state agency that handles corporations in the company's state of incorporation; usually this is the department of state. Your broker may also be able to help you. You might also be able to sell the stock certificate on eBay as a collector's item. The Social Security Administration also keeps records about people who qualify for certain pension benefits.

When you apply for Social Security benefits, they automatically check your name and Social Security Number against the pension records database and will inform you if there are any matches. It works to ensure that retirees get the money that is owed to them. The EBSI web site includes an Abandoned Plan Search tool that can be used to find retirement plans that are terminated or in the process of being terminated. If you forgot about a bank account, try calling your state banking commission.

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They can help you track down the current location of your bank accounts and reunite you with your funds. The search tool is very sensitive to how you spelled your name in the account title, so try your name in several variations i. If you have an unclaimed income tax refund, contact the IRS for information on how to obtain the refund. There are two types of unclaimed income tax refunds: Never filed an income tax return. If you did not file a federal income tax return but are due a refund, you must file a federal income tax return to claim the refund.

Federal income tax returns must be filed within three years to claim any refunds owing to you. Filed an income tax return. You will need to provide your Social Security number and the amount of the refund you are expecting. You can also call the IRS at If you know that a Federal agency has money belonging to you, but need the phone number for the agency, try calling the Federal Information Center at or visiting USA.

They can direct you to the appropriate Federal office. Unclaimed State Income Tax Refunds The following is a list of links to state web sites for checking on the status of your state income tax refund. States that do not have a state income tax are not listed. You should cash them in at that time. It helps if you kept a record of the bond serial number, issue date, registration, and the social security number of the bond owner. But the Bureau of Public Debt may be able to trace the bonds even without the serial numbers. The date the holder discontinued mailings, notifications, or communications to the apparent owner.

Communicates in writing with the association or its agent regarding the interest or a dividend, distribution, or other sum payable as a result of the interest; or 2. Otherwise communicates with the association regarding the interest or a dividend, distribution, or other sum payable as a result of the interest, as evidenced by a memorandum or other record on file with the association or its agent.

Help! The state won't give me my money back

If any future dividend, distribution, or other sum payable to the owner as a result of the interest is subsequently not claimed by the owner, a new period in which the property is presumed unclaimed commences and relates back only to the time a subsequent dividend, distribution, or other sum became due and payable. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, funds deposited in the Minerals Trust Fund pursuant to s. In lieu of forms, a report identifying 25 or more different apparent owners must be submitted by the holder via electronic medium as the department may prescribe by rule.

Contents of a safe-deposit box or other safekeeping repository which consist of documents or writings of a private nature and which have little or no apparent value shall not be presumed unclaimed. The balance brought forward to the new reporting period is zero. Compliance with this subsection means the holder exercises reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the names of all prior holders.

The report shall apply to the preceding calendar year. The penalty shall be remitted to the department within 30 days after the date of the notification to the holder that the penalty is due and owing. As necessary for proper administration of this chapter, the department may waive any penalty due with appropriate justification.

On written request by any person required to file a report and upon a showing of good cause, the department may postpone the reporting date. The department must provide information contained in a report filed with the department to any person requesting a copy of the report or information contained in a report, to the extent the information requested is not confidential, within 45 days after the report has been processed and added to the unclaimed property database subsequent to a determination that the report is accurate and that the reported property is the same as the remitted property.

Not more than days and not less than 60 days prior to filing the report required by this section, the holder in possession of property presumed unclaimed and subject to custody as unclaimed property under this chapter shall send written notice to the apparent owner at the apparent owner's last known address informing the apparent owner that the holder is in possession of property subject to this chapter, if the holder has in its records an address for the apparent owner which the holder's records do not disclose to be inaccurate.

The petition shall state any special circumstances that exist, contain the information required by subsection 2 , and show that a diligent search has been made to locate the owner. If the department finds that the proof of diligent search is satisfactory, it shall give notice as provided in s.

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  • The holder of such property does not have any obligation to report, to pay, or to deliver such property to the department. I of the State Constitution. Notwithstanding this exemption, social security numbers shall be released, for the limited purpose of locating owners of abandoned or unclaimed property, to an attorney, Florida-certified public accountant, private investigator who is duly licensed in this state, or a private investigative agency licensed under chapter and registered with the department under this chapter.

    This exemption applies to social security numbers and financial account numbers held by the department before, on, or after the effective date of this exemption.

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    • Such active attempt to notify apparent owners shall include any attempt by the department to directly contact the owner. Other means of notification, such as publication of the names of owners in the newspaper, on television, on the Internet, or through other promotional efforts and items in which the department does not directly attempt to contact the owner are expressly declared to be passive attempts.

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      Nothing in this subsection precludes other agencies or entities of state government from notifying owners of the existence of unclaimed property or attempting to notify apparent owners of unclaimed property. Such payment or delivery shall accompany the report as required in this chapter for the preceding calendar year.

      In lieu of delivery, the holder shall file a verified written explanation of the proof of claim or of the error in the presumption that the property was unclaimed. Upon delivery of the stock or other intangible ownership interest to the department, the holder and any transfer agent, registrar, or other person acting for or on behalf of a holder is relieved of all liability of every kind in accordance with the provisions of s. The delivery of the property, through the United States mail or any other carrier, shall be insured by the holder at an amount equal to the estimated value of the property.

      Each package shall be clearly marked on the outside "Deliver Unopened. In lieu of a single shipment, holders may provide the department with a single detailed shipping schedule that includes package tracking information for all packages being sent pursuant to this section. The department shall identify by rule those cash and coin items having a numismatic value.

      Cash and coin items identified as having a numismatic value shall be remitted to the department in their original form. However, the department is authorized to make a reasonable attempt to ascertain the historical value to collectors of any firearm that has been delivered to the department. Any firearm appearing to have historical value to collectors may be sold by the department pursuant to s.

      Any firearm which is not sold pursuant to s. The department shall not be administratively, civilly, or criminally liable for any firearm delivered by the department to a law enforcement agency in this state for disposal. Any such extension the department may grant shall be in writing. Any person who pays or delivers property to the department in good faith is relieved of all liability to the extent of the value of the property paid or delivered for any claim then existing or which thereafter may arise or be made in respect to the property.

      If repayment is sought for a payment made on a negotiable instrument, including a traveler's check or money order, the holder must be repaid under this subsection upon filing proof that the instrument was duly presented and that the payee is entitled to payment. The holder shall be repaid for payment made under this subsection even if the payment was made to a person whose claim was barred under s.