How to Find Lost Savings Bonds, Bank Accounts and Other Assets
If you’re missing money or even a life insurance policy, search these free websites to find it fast
find the U.S. Savings Bonds your grandfather gave you back in 1982? Relax
— there are ways to locate them, as well as find other U.S. Treasury
securities, bank accounts, life insurance policies and many other types of assets
you’ve lost track of.
In most cases, there’s no need to pay a finder firm to search for you. You can easily do it yourself, using various, free Internet databases. Here’s where to look for commonly lost assets.
U.S. Treasury securities
Go to treasurydirect.gov to locate matured savings bonds or missed interest and principal payments from other Treasury securities such as bills or notes. Click on “Treasury Hunt” under the “Individuals” tab. Type in your Social Security number to start your search.
The Treasury’s search engine can identify only bonds issued in 1974 or later, however, because that’s when the practice of putting Social Security numbers on savings bonds began.
If you’re looking for older bonds or those that are still drawing interest, search the Treasury’s website for “Form 1048,” which is used for lost, stolen, or destroyed savings bonds. Download the form and fill in as much information as you can, including the issue date of the missing bonds (or a range of possible dates), their face amount and serial numbers, and the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of their owners.
If you’re searching for someone else’s bonds as the executor of an estate, you’ll have to prove that you have the legal authority to act.
Bank accounts, CDs and other property
State treasuries and other agencies end up holding most types of forgotten assets as unclaimed property. Here’s the place to look for missing bank accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), contents of safe-deposit boxes, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, dividend and payroll checks, insurance payments, annuities, trust fund distributions, utility security deposits, escrow accounts and mineral royalty payments.
State laws declare property abandoned after a certain period of inactivity, typically three to five years. During that time, banks and other holders of such assets must by law try to contact the owners. If they’re unsuccessful, they must turn the assets over to the state, which tries to find the owners, usually by placing those small-print ads you see in newspapers.
To search for such assets, go to missingmoney.com, which the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) endorses. The site has records from 40 states and the District of Columbia and links to agencies that hold unclaimed property in the other states.
Search all of the states you have ever lived in, and check back periodically because the NAUPA frequently refreshes the data. Even if you find property that’s been sitting in a state treasury for years, you’re in luck; there’s no time limit for claiming your discovery.
Accounts at failed banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions
If you’re missing money that you kept at a financial institution that went bust, there are additional websites you should search.
To look for insured deposits you had at a failed bank or S&L, go to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s website.
If you had an insured deposit at a credit union that went belly up, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is on the hook for payments. To check NCUA’s database of unclaimed assets, go to their website and search “Unclaimed Deposits.”
Life insurance policies
If you believe a deceased relative or friend had a life insurance policy that hasn’t been found, you can search for it on missingmoney.com. If you don’t find anything, check the decedent’s address book for the names of insurance agents, as well as his or her checkbooks and credit card statements for records of premium payments. To hunt for a group policy, call the decedent’s last employer.
For more tips, go to the American Council of Life Insurers’ website and click on “Missing Policy Tips.”
If you come up empty but still believe your relative or friend had coverage, you can hire MIB, an insurance membership corporation, to help. Go to MIB’s website to access its database of life insurance applications processed by its 430 member companies since January 1, 1996. Your cost: $75 per search.