Claiming unclaimed money from a deceased relative can be fairly straightforward or more complicated, depending on state inheritance laws and the amount of supporting evidence to back the claim.
When a person dies without a will or other legally binding document outlining the distribution of their financial assets, that money may become “unclaimed” after a designated period of time. Unclaimed money is often turned over to the state where that person lived. However, it is possible for relatives to claim that money through the appropriate channels.
What Happens to Unclaimed Money from Deceased Relatives?
When no direct heir is identified, unclaimed money and assets from a deceased relative go to the state government. How soon the money goes to the state after the person dies will vary according to that state’s inheritance laws.
Once unclaimed money ends up in the hands of the government, the state authority will try to identify any relatives that are entitled to claim the money. Typically, a description of the assets and the name of the deceased are posted to one or several public and searchable websites. Some examples of these websites are:
• FDIC.gov and NCUA.gov
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Can You Claim Unclaimed Money from a Deceased Relative?
If you believe you are entitled to an unclaimed financial asset of a deceased relative, you can file a claim with the state government or business that is holding it. If you are specifically named as a beneficiary in the deceased relative’s will, the claim process can be relatively smooth. If not, you may still be able to claim that money but it will require supporting documentation or potentially a decision from a presiding probate court judge to ultimately verify the claim.
Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Make a Will?
What Types of Financial Assets Can Be Claimed from Deceased Relatives?
Unclaimed money doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of cash; it can also include other assets of value such as:
• Real estate
• Certificates of deposit
• 401(k)s and other retirement plans
• Vehicles and other physical assets
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What to Expect From the Unclaimed Money Process
If you’re planning to claim unclaimed money, the process will vary depending on the state you’re filing in and the asset in question. In some cases, you can file a claim online, provide proof of identity and any documented proof of ownership, and wait for your claim to be processed. Once the claim is approved, you receive the money.
In situations where the deceased did not have a will or an executor for the will, a probate court will typically appoint someone to oversee any ownership claims and asset transfers. If this is the case, you may have to wait longer or provide more documented proof in court before your claim is approved.
Once your claim is approved and you receive the money owed to you, you may be required to pay inheritance tax. Again, this depends on which state the deceased lived in. However, spouses are exempt from paying inheritance tax in every state.
Claiming unclaimed money from a deceased relative is entirely possible. However, the complexity of the process will ultimately depend on the circumstances and location of the deceased. If you believe you’re entitled to claim unclaimed money from a deceased relative, leveraging an estate planning attorney or a financial advisor can help demystify the process and any specifics about your claim.
It’s never too early to be thinking about your own estate planning needs and long-term financial goals.
How do you know if a deceased loved one has left you money?
If a deceased relative has named you as a beneficiary in their will or another legally binding contract, the executor of that document or a probate court will likely reach out to inform you of any unclaimed money you are entitled to. If not, you can still check to see if you are entitled to money by searching one of the public online unclaimed-money databases or by reaching out to the deceased relative’s financial advisor or estate planner.
How do I find assets of a deceased person?
To find the assets of a deceased relative, try looking through their personal property, reach out to relatives and other friends with knowledge of their financial affairs, or inquire with the local probate court or state government agencies.
What happens when you inherit money?
Depending on where you inherit money, you may be required to pay inheritance tax. After that, you are free to do with the money as you please. However, it is often advisable to think hard about how to use that money to support your financial needs or long-term goals.
Photo credit: iStock/mdphoto16
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