- Frequently Asked Questions
What is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property is intangible assets (cash, stocks, or bonds) that a company or other entity is holding that belongs to you that have become abandoned. It includes bank accounts, stocks and dividends, wages, refunds, insurance payments, gift certificates, credit balances and overpayments, just to name a few.
Does unclaimed property include real estate? We are not in possession of land, homes, or vehicles. If you are interested in acquiring land or homes that are auctioned due to delinquent taxes contact your local county trustee’s office.
How does property become unclaimed or abandoned and how can I prevent that from happening to me? Abandonment is determined after a specified amount of time has elapsed when a company or other entity has not been able to return your asset or make contact with you. To prevent your accounts from becoming unclaimed or abandoned, keep accounts active and make sure that you make a deposit or withdrawal, cash all checks for dividends, insurance benefits, and wages, update your address, or contact the company at least every three years.
How long must an account be dormant before it is considered abandoned? In Tennessee most property types are presumed abandoned or unclaimed if there has been no account activity for 5 years. However, wages and utility deposits are presumed abandoned or unclaimed after 1 year.
What does escheat mean? An escheat is the succession of abandoned property to the State. Unclaimed Property is not a true escheat as the state holds the property in a custodian nature until the owner or their heirs can be located.
Why is there an unclaimed property law? The unclaimed property law is designed to collect, safeguard and return lost or forgotten property to its rightful owners. Each state has similar laws.
Is there a minimum amount? No. Businesses must report all unclaimed property, no matter how small.
Does the State simply go in and take the money? No. The statute is in place to protect your property. It requires holders of properties to account for them and deliver them to the Treasury. Unclaimed property is remitted to the State only after two things have occurred:
- There has been no activity on the account for the applicable dormancy period, and
- The holder has attempted to contact the owner at the last known address.
If these are unsuccessful, then the money is remitted to the State.
How often are businesses required to report unclaimed property? They are required to report by May 1st every year.
How does the State try to find the owners? http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/HowWeContact.html
Does the State ever seize or take ownership of property that goes unclaimed? Tennessee is a custodial state. The owner or heirs may claim property at any time. The funds always belong to the owner and will not become the property of the State.
Is there a time limit for filing a claim? Once unclaimed property is reported to the state, there is no time limit to reclaim your funds. Unclaimed property is always available to the owner or their heirs.
Is there a fee to claim your property? No. There is no fee to claim your property from the State. This is a free service.
How do I verify the legitimacy of any information or inquiries that I receive about Unclaimed Property? If you are ever concerned about the validity of something you have received please feel free to contact our office at (615) 741-6499 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
What is the mailing address?
See Contact Us page
Does the state pay interest on claims? Tennessee will pay interest if the original company reported an interest rate the property was earning when it was turned over.
Why am I receiving cash instead of my stock shares that were reported? The State of Tennessee holds securities in a trust account. The shares are liquidated within twelve (12) months following the date the property was advertised.
Searching for Unclaimed Property
I found my name, how do I file a claim? If you feel the property belongs to you, follow the instructions to complete a claim online.
I still live at the address shown in your records. Why was the property reported to the State? Companies are required by law to make an effort to contact owners before reporting the property if they believe it is unclaimed. There are many reasons why this communication fails- an incomplete address, a lost piece of correspondence, an error in the company’s records are all typical examples.
There is no address listed with the name I found in the database. How do I find out if it belongs to me? How do I prove that the funds belong to me?
If a company does not report an address with a name the claimant will be required to provide proof that they did business with the company who reported the property. Examples of proof might be an invoice, W-2 forms, receipt or an account statement with the original owner’s name and the company name. If you have never done business with the company reporting the property then the funds may belong to someone else with the same name.
Who can claim funds listed in the database? The owner, estate, lawful heir or duly authorized representative depending on the circumstances.
Why is the dollar amount not listed?
The dollar amount is not listed to discourage fraudulent activity.
How often is the unclaimed property list updated? Our website is updated daily.
What if I do not have a printer?
You may call our office at (615) 741-6499 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to request a claim form.
I have lived in other states, how do I find out if I have unclaimed property in other states?
There is a national website called MissingMoney.com that most states (including Tennessee) participate in. Also, you could go directly to those other state’s Unclaimed Property websites. We have a link to both of them here.
Claim Submission Information
I have received my claim form, what do I do now?
Read carefully, fill out completely and sign your claim form. Section C of each claim form will detail the documentation you are required to provide. The required documentation will include (but may not be limited to) a copy of your current identification reflecting your current mailing address and documentation proving your ownership of the account. Please refer to your claim form for the specific documentation required for your particular claim. Mail the completed claim form with the required documentation to the address indicated on the form.
On the claim form, who is the claimant?
The claimant is the individual claiming the money, whether for themselves or as an heir to the owner.
What do I have to send in to prove the property belongs to me?
Every claim is unique and what we request will be dependent on your specific circumstances. One of the major factors that determine what we request is what information did the original company provide to us that we can use to determine who is the true owner. You can view a list of the most common documentation we request and examples HERE.
Why is my social security number requested as part of the claim process?
The State of Tennessee requires your social security number for tax purposes; without it, we will not be able to process your claim.
What if I am reluctant to provide the Treasury Department with my social security number?
Personal identification information relating to unclaimed property claimants, including social security numbers, is confidential. Your privacy is our highest priority, and staff is trained in procedures to ensure all personal information is safeguarded
What if I lost or do not have my social security card?
A copy of a tax return, W-2, pay stub, insurance card or any other document that shows your social security number will suffice. If you are unsure contact our office for help.
How do I prove the account belongs to me?
What if I cannot provide proof of ownership to the property?
Proof of ownership is usually established by address or social security verification. Sometimes, the claimant is not able to verify that he or she lived at the last known address that was reported. In these cases, we will do everything we can to assist you in establishing ownership. If we are not successful in finding a connection to an old address, you may be asked to do further research. In most instances, claims of this nature are reviewed on a case by case basis.
How do I obtain or provide proof of a previous address?
A copy of an old bill (ex. utility bill), copy of an old tax return, school records, birth or death certificates or credit reports will suffice. Anything that officially lists your previous address is sufficient. If you are unsure, contact our office for help.
I am the parent or legal guardian of a minor who is listed as the owner. What documentation is required?
See Joint Owners at http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/ProvingOwnership.html
I have Power of Attorney (POA) for a person listed as the owner. What documentation is required? See Joint Owners at http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/ProvingOwnership.html
What if the original owner of the property is deceased? See Deceased Owners at http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/ProvingOwnership.html
Where can I obtain a death certificate?
If the person passed away in Tennessee you will need to contact the Tennessee Vital Records at 615-741-1763 or at http://www.tn.gov/health/article/vr-certificate
How do I claim money for an estate?
See Deceased Owners at http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/ProvingOwnership.html
How do I get a federal employer identification number (FEIN) for an estate?
You will need to contact the IRS at 1-800-829-4933.
What if the deceased owner died without a will?
If the owner did not have a will we will need a copy of the obituary to document how many heirs there may have been.
Why do I need an obituary when claiming for a deceased person?
The obituary usually lists surviving heirs. This helps in determining your eligibility to claim.
Why does each heir need to claim their share individually?
The State of Tennessee is bound by law to distribute funds based on the intentions of the will or according to heirship. This means that we cannot pay one heir the entire amount and allow them to distribute the property amongst the other heirs.
Does each heir need to submit all of the required documents?
No. As long as one heir submits the death certificate and will or obituary, the others do not need to submit these documents. Each heir will be required to provide their birth certificate, driver’s license, proof of social security number, and proof of current address along with their claim form.
Can I fax the claim form?
No. We do not accept faxed claim forms.
I have all my paperwork ready. Can I come in the Unclaimed Property office and pick up a check? You cannot pick up a check from our office.
After I file a claim, how long does it take to receive my funds?
Processing time varies throughout the year depending on our current volume and the complexity of your claim. The period may be extended if all of the required documentation is not included with the original claim package. Claims with securities will take longer. Our phone recording will provide the most current processing time.
I received a claim form from your office. Why can’t I find my name on your database?
Once you have submitted your claim online or through the mail, it is imported into our system for processing. At that point, it is taken off of the listing while your claim is evaluated.
How can I check the status of my claim?
At any time you can check the status of your claim on our website. You will need your claim number and your zip code you entered when you set-up your claim.
I’ve moved since I sent my claim in, what do I do?
To request a change of address, or if you believe your check may have been lost in the mail, please have your claim number ready and call our office at (615) 741-6499.
What is a locator?
Locator, finder, tracer, heir-finder, collector, investigator, researcher and broker are all names for individuals who seek out owners of unclaimed property in Tennessee and other states. Functioning as a locator is legal, but consumers should know that locators generally charge a fee for this service. According to Tennessee law, locators may charge up to 10 percent of unclaimed money as payment for locating lost assets.
Do I have to pay a locator’s fee?
Owners and their heirs do not have to pay a locator’s fee to anyone to claim funds being held by the State of Tennessee. Do your homework, and understand your potential costs and options before you choose to utilize the services of a locator.
What should I do if someone offers to help me locate unclaimed money for a fee?
This is a free service and the State of Tennessee will never charge you anything to process your claim. There is no time limit for you to claim your property. The process is simple and you do not need to pay anyone to help you claim your property. For more information about locators please check our website.
How do I become a locator?
Click here http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/Locator.html for information on becoming a locator
Can I charge a finder fee?
Tennessee law restricts finder fees to no more than 10% of the property recovered or $50 whichever is largest. This information must be stated in the contract between the finder and the owner.
What is required when a claim is submitted?
When a locator submits a claim we will need not only the normal required information, proving ownership, but also documentation that the locator is authorized to provide this service, locator requirements.
Is there a list of owner information available for purchase?
A list of owner information is available at no charge once you are properly licensed. The list does not include an owner’s social security number or date of birth. To protect owner information from fraudulent activity the list is only available to licensed private investigators.
Does the list contain all properties held with the State?
No. According to TN statute locators can only charge a fee for properties that have been held one year from the date advertised. The list contains all remaining properties over $250 that has not been claimed as of the date it was created.
Can I get the list in electronic format?
Yes. The list is only available in PDF format.
How long does it take to get the list?
The list of owners of unclaimed property will be mailed once we receive proof of ID and a copy of the private investigator’s licenses.
Compliance Disclosure Agreement
What is a Compliance Disclosure Agreement (CDA) Program?
It is an opportunity for companies not in compliance with the State of Tennessee Unclaimed Property Laws to come into compliance without fear of penalty
Who is eligible to participate?
Click here for more info http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/CDA.html
Any company that is currently has not been selected for audit can participate.
What information is required?
Click here for more info http://treasury.tn.gov/unclaim/CDA.html
A completed and signed CDA form.
Holder Reporting (View Holder Reporting FAQs HERE)