While much of what deceased relatives leave as an inheritance is spelled out in their wills, there may be money the estate can claim, such as funds or property the relatives might have forgotten was owed them: dormant bank or stock accounts, utility deposits, the contents of safe deposit boxes.
Finding websites to help you locate unclaimed funds is straightforward, says Paul Hyl, attorney with Genser, Dubow, Genser & Cona Llp, an estate planning firm in Melville. Still, be prepared to engage in some detective work.
Here are some ways to start the search:
Check: Start with the New York State Comptroller's Office of Unclaimed Funds site at osc.state.ny.us/ouf. If your relative lived in other states, also check out MissingMoney.com, a database established by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. Not all states participate in that one, so you may also need to Google "unclaimed funds" and the appropriate state's name.
Claim: You'll have to prove your relative really was the person associated with any account you find. That can be quite a hurdle, says Hyl. He's often reached out to the institution that turned the funds over to the state, such as the bank or brokerage firm, for help in the confirmation process. You'll also have to prove you're the executor of the estate or next of kin.
Tips: As you search these databases, try variations of your relative's name, says Cynthia Braun, a certified professional organizer in Lake Grove who has helped clients sort through deceased relatives' financial paperwork. That would include married and maiden names, nicknames, initials. And if you find no accounts, Hyl suggests you check again in several years, as accounts not yet dormant may flip into that category down the road.