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Unclaimed Property: Understanding the IRS Guidelines & Claiming Process

Unclaimed Property: Understanding the IRS Guidelines & Claiming Process

Unclaimed property refers to assets, financial accounts, or other holdings that have been abandoned or forgotten by their rightful owners. These assets may include uncashed checks, dormant bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks, dividends, and more. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has guidelines and processes in place to help individuals identify and reclaim their unclaimed property. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of unclaimed property, its implications, and the steps involved in claiming such assets, ensuring individuals are aware of their rights and opportunities to recover what rightfully belongs to them.

I. What is Unclaimed Property?

The unclaimed property encompasses various types of assets that have remained dormant or unclaimed by their rightful owners for a specified period. It can include funds held by financial institutions, uncashed checks, unredeemed gift cards, abandoned safe deposit box contents, insurance policies, utility deposits, and more. State governments are responsible for safeguarding and administering unclaimed property until the rightful owners or heirs come forward to claim it.

II. How Does Property Become Unclaimed?

A property becomes unclaimed when the rightful owner fails to take any action or cannot be contacted by the holder of the assets for a period known as the dormancy period. The dormancy period varies by state and the type of property. For example, bank accounts may become dormant after a certain period of inactivity, while uncashed checks may have a shorter dormancy period.

III. The Role of the IRS

While state governments primarily handle unclaimed property, the IRS ensures compliance with tax laws related to these assets. If unclaimed property generates income, such as interest or dividends, it may be subject to federal income tax. Additionally, the IRS requires holders of unclaimed property to report and remit certain information annually.

IV. Locating and Claiming Unclaimed Property

  • Searching for Unclaimed Property: Individuals can begin their search for unclaimed property by visiting the official website of their state's unclaimed property department. These websites provide searchable databases where individuals can input their personal information and conduct a search to see if they have any unclaimed assets.

  • Verification and Documentation: Once a potential unclaimed property is identified, the rightful owner must provide adequate documentation to prove their ownership. This typically includes identification documents, proof of address, Social Security number, and supporting documents related to the property.

  • Filing a Claim: Each state has its own specific procedures for filing a claim. The necessary forms and instructions can usually be found on the state's unclaimed property website. Following the instructions carefully and submitting all required documentation is crucial to ensure a successful claim.

  • Waiting Period and Verification: After submitting a claim, there is usually a waiting period during which the state verifies the claim and ensures it meets all necessary requirements. The verification process may involve contacting the claimant for further information or documentation.

  • Receiving the Property: Once the claim is approved, the state will arrange for the transfer of the unclaimed property to its rightful owner. The method of transfer can vary depending on the type of property, but it may involve issuing a check, transferring funds electronically, or returning physical items.

V. Tax Implications of Claiming Unclaimed Property

Generally, if the unclaimed property generates income, such as interest or dividends, the income may be subject to federal income tax. It is essential to consult a tax professional or refer to IRS guidelines for specific information on reporting and tax obligations related to the claimed property.


Unclaimed property can represent a significant financial opportunity for individuals who have unknowingly left assets behind. By understanding the IRS guidelines and the process of locating and claiming unclaimed property, individuals can take proactive steps to reunite with their forgotten assets. Initiating a search on their state's unclaimed property website, providing necessary documentation, and following the state's specific procedures for filing a claim are crucial steps in the process. It is important to be aware of any potential tax implications that may arise from claiming unclaimed property, particularly if the assets have generated income. By familiarizing themselves with the relevant regulations and seeking professional advice when needed, individuals can maximize their chances of reclaiming their rightful property and putting it to good use.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Individuals should consult their state's unclaimed property department and a qualified tax professional such as PAT RASKOB for specific guidance regarding unclaimed property and tax matters.



Pat Raskob
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