Serena Merrill managed her mother's finances and cared for her before she died. But years after the estate was settled, Serena found four thousand dollars in lost assets that no one had known about. The check arrived one Christmas Eve.
Serena says, "My sister was really thrilled because she was in extreme financial hardship at that time. It was a total surprise to get this money at all."
Recently Serena was tipped off by a so-called "finder firm" that there are still other unclaimed assets. While these firms might be able find your money a bit faster, there are fees involved. But Consumer Reports Money Adviser can tell you how to find forgotten assets without spending a dime.
Greg Daugherty with Consumer Reports says, "A lot of the research a finder firm will do for you, you can definitely do on your own. Your first stop should be a website called MissingMoney.com."
MissingMoney.com has records from 35 states and the District of Columbia and links to the remaining state agencies, which safeguard a lot of unclaimed property.
Daughtery adds, "Unclaimed money can come from any number of sources - forgotten bank accounts or safe deposit boxes, uncashed paychecks."
An increasing number of databases can help you find other lost assets like pensions and 401K plans, accounts at failed financial institutions, and U.S. savings bonds.
Daugherty says, "Be aware that only you can claim your money, and for that you'll need proof of your identity. Also be prepared to spend some time filling out paperwork."
But as Serena found out, the effort can be well worth it.
One thing you don't need to worry about is your assets disappearing. States and the federal government have to keep the assets until claimed.