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

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

Most of this blog is about unclaimed assets and how to get them back, but today we'll be focusing on how to prevent assets from becoming unclaimed. Remember, even if an asset is reclaimed, only the amount it was initially worth can be taken back. If you've had money available to you for the past 40 years, an investment could have made that into a nice "nest egg" for retirement or your children!

Follow these easy steps to make sure that your hard-earned assets don't end up in the greater than $100,000,000,000 of unclaimed American assets! Iowa's State Treasurer, Michael Fitzgerald, reported that his office receives millions of dollars a year to hold as "unclaimed assets." He provided these easy tips to ensure that your money doesn't end up on his (and other Treasurers') desk!

1. Do This with All Checks

Did you receive a check, especially from a party that would have reason to wish to deny you the money? Examples include alimony, any proceeds from a lawsuit, and essentially anyone with whom you have an adversarial relationship who was forced to procure a check.

The issue with checks is that state laws differ on how long you have to cash them. Cashiers' checks are generally always valid, since they're issued by the bank itself. However, personal checks could be only valid for 30 days, and some states don't require that personal checks have such a disclaimer.

Don't put off depositing that check! The best way to do this is to use a bank or credit union offering "mobile deposit" features. That way, all you 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"

Choose someone you trust dearly and is likely to live longer than you. For example, your trustworthy children would be a great resource to assist you (and themselves indirectly) by doing this. Essentially, you should list all legally obtained assets you own, including full account information in a document.

This should be filed with a trusted attorney and given to your children. At the same time, you should file a will and make it very clear that these assets should be transferred to your children or other designated beneficiary. Remember, there is never a time you shouldn't list a beneficiary when you establish an account, either! 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 most major causes of "unclaimed assets" is frequent moving. Members of the Armed Forces and those who have very mobile jobs often cannot foresee where they'll move exactly. Of course, when moving, ensuring that your account information with financial institutions with whom you rarely have contact is likely not on your priority list. Nonetheless, it should be!

Every time you move, you need to formally change your address with USPS, the only federal entity that tracks where you move. There is no legal requirement for most people to do this, but it will massively assist you. For free, you'll receive forwarded mail from your old address for up to a year! That gives you time to receive letters from institutions you may have forgotten about. Letters sent to your old address will have a yellow label on them that explicitly tell you you should let the sender know that you moved!

Other than the USPS, you should change all 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 only a year for a decade ago! This is much easier if you follow Step 2, keeping a full list of your assets.

What Else Can I Do?

Unfortunately, sometimes these situations aren't avoidable. If a loved one suddenly passes away, there is sometimes no way to clearly articulate their will if it isn't readily 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 has saved many thousands or millions of dollars.

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