How to Prevent Your Assets from Becoming "Unclaimed" in a Few Easy Steps

Today we'll be focusing on how to prevent assets from becoming unclaimed.

Remember, even if an asset is reclaimed, only its initial amount can be taken back. If, for example, your unclaimed asset is an investment that's been on stand by for the past 40 years, this could have been made into a nice "nest egg" for your retirement or your children!

When it comes to unclaimed assets seized by the government, Iowa's State Treasurer, Michael Fitzgerald, reports that his office receives millions of dollars a year to hold as "unclaimed assets." To ensure that your money doesn't end up on his (and other Treasurers') desk, he provided these easy tips. Let's go make sure that your hard-earned assets don't end up in the greater than $100,000,000,000 of unclaimed American assets!


1. Do This with All Checks

Did you receive a check, especially one from a party that would wish to deny you money? This could be an ex-spouse paying alimony, someone who lost a lawsuit against you, or anyone you're in an adversarial relationship with who was forced to issue a check to you. If so, be cautious.

The issue with checks is that different states have different laws on how long they can be considered valid. Cashier's checks are generally always valid since they're issued by the bank. Personal checks, on the other hand, may only be valid for 30 days, and some states may not even require a disclaimer on the check stating so.

That's why it's important not to delay cashing or depositing a check. One of the best ways to do this is by using a bank or credit union with mobile deposit features. All you'll need to do is endorse the check, follow directions, and take a picture of the front and back of the check. In most cases, you'll have the money by the next day, at the latest.


2. Provide a Detailed "Asset Report"

For this, it's important to choose someone (1) you trust and (2) who's likely to outlive you. A great example would be your trustworthy kids. With their help, you should create a document listing all of your legally-owned assets and full details of every account under your name.

Give that document to a reliable lawyer and your children. But don't stop there. Afterwards, you should file a will and make it very clear that all your assets should go to your children or your chosen designated beneficiary. Remember, every account you own should also have an "internal beneficiary," or one that is retained by the bank itself.


3. Change Your Address Everywhere

One of the major causes of "unclaimed assets" is frequent relocation. For folks like members of the Armed Forces and others with similarly mobile jobs, they're often unable to foresee their next location. More so, changing your account information with financial institutions is usually not high on your to-do list during a move. But it should be!

Every time you move, you need to formally change your address with the United States Postal Service USPS, the only federal entity that keeps track of your new address. Although most people aren't legally required to do this, it can be a lifesaver. It's free, and will have the benefit of your mail being forwarded from your old address to your new one for up to a year. This will give you enough time to receive letters from institutions you may have forgotten about. Any letters sent to your old address will be labeled with a yellow label that says "Hey, you moved! Let the sender know!"

Other than the USPS, you should also change your address information with all financial institutions. Yes, that includes that little 401(k) you keep meaning to roll over from that company you worked for for only one year a decade ago! Keeping a full list of your assets, as explained in Step 2, can make this task much easier.


What Else Can I Do?

Unfortunately, some situations are unavoidable. If a loved one passes away suddenly, sometimes there's no way to determine their last will if it isn't available. That's why it's important to stay on top of current trends in the unclaimed asset market! Knowing when you're entitled to assets could save you thousands or even millions of dollars. Better be prepared than sorry later on!

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