Last week, I received a letter promising me free money!  And it was not from Nigeria!

Instead, it was from a broker who helps people reclaim their unclaimed property.  In my particular case, an insurer had issued a rebate to an old address when I lived in Pennsylvania that had never been forwarded by USPS.  Instead, it sat in its “Unclaimed Property Bureau.”  The company who contacted me would process this claim for me for 15% (!) and send me a check. Instead, I simply filled out a small piece of paperwork with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and then sent it in (.50 cents instead of 15%!).  Such a process motivated me to look at many of my old addresses (during grad school I lived in NYC, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and I found one other unclaimed rebate from that period.

Undoubtedly, most of our clients have heard of the Wisconsin unclaimed property bureau and may have checked it in Wisconsin for themselves, but this experience brought up a couple of additional factors for our clients to consider.  The first is that if they (or their children!) have moved around a bit, they may want to check (or tell their children to check) the unclaimed property bureau in the state(s) where they lived.  In my case, I found that I also had a check sent to an old address in New Jersey (New Jersey is part of a multi-state website called missingmoney.com which is a good place to start).  Second, while I was doing that I also did some research on my last name and found that my “Uncle” (Great Uncle) had some unclaimed property since he had died and I shared that my father who will (hopefully) let the executors of his estate (obviously, this is a lot simpler with an uncommon last name like Poniewaz!).  Finally, it’s also a good idea to check under any previous names you might have had as a change of name due to marriage might be the reason the money never got to you.  

A few weeks ago, Mitch and I shared a few more practical tips like this on our “Spring Cleaning” podcast, so we’d recommend you give that podcast a listen if you haven’t already.

Keith Poniewaz

Editor’s Note: I actually had a couple items of unclaimed property. Thanks Keith! -Clint