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DIY search can find lost savings account

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Dear Dr. Don,
A friend of mine had a savings account at a bank. He has had no contact with the bank since 1982. Last month, we realized that the bank had changed hands and is now being acquired by SunTrust Bank. We contacted the bank, and they did not find my friend’s name.

They told us because it is over 28 years old it may have been transferred to the state’s unclaimed property fund. Please advise me on how to pursue this matter.
— Mohammad Mislaid

Dear Mohammad,
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has a Web page, “Answers About Inactive Accounts,” that does a great job in explaining what happened to your friend’s account, and how he can reclaim the assets:

When is an account considered inactive or unclaimed?
Generally an account is considered inactive or unclaimed when there is no customer initiated activity or contact for a period of three to five years. The specific period is based on the laws or rules of each state.

Each state has an unclaimed property program. Before sending the account balance to the state, the bank is usually required to try to contact the customer. Some banks publish the names of the account holder in a local newspaper. Some banks send a letter to the last known address of the account holder. The bank will turn over the account balance to the state if there is no contact from the account holder.

You can find more information on unclaimed property programs through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) and through your state unclaimed property office.

With an inactive bank account, the search is a do-it-yourself project and there’s no real need to hire a property search company to help your friend find his unclaimed property.

The Bankrate feature “States hold treasure trove of unclaimed property” has more detail on this topic.

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