What You Need to Know About Unclaimed Property in California

To date, the state of California’s unclaimed property totals nearly $6 BILLION, which is more than any other state. This money belongs to approximately 11.5 million people and organizations, and can be claimed by rightful owners at any time. The Silicone Valley area in Northern California and Orange County in Southern California has the largest number of unclaimed properties in the state. Approximately one out of three people in CA is owed money.

The Unclaimed Property Law requires financial institutions, businesses, and insurance companies to provide an annual report of unclaimed assets and any information they know about the owners. So, how do they know when to report assets? There has to be a period of inactivity for a certain amount of years, which is generally three years, depending on the type of asset.

Here are some common unclaimed properties:

  • Stocks, bonds, dividends, and mutual funds
  • Certificates of deposits
  • Uncashed checks, money orders, and traveler’s checks
  • Estates
  • Trust funds
  • Escrow accounts and funds
  • Matured insurance policies
  • Safety deposit box contents

All of these, except for the latter, are intangible. Sometimes if a safety deposit box goes years and years of being unclaimed, and no information about the owner can be found, it will be sold at government actions. The intangible properties have no limitations – they can be claimed at any time.

The Unclaimed Property Law was created to protect the funds from unclaimed properties. The law prevents the holders from spending it or taking it in with other business income. Those who suspect they have money owed to them can do a property search online. They will receive the property ID number needed for making the claim, and will be provided with the instructions for filling out the claim and submitting it.

The state will evaluate the claim and respond within 180 days. Six months does seem like a long time to evaluate a claim, but then again, there are millions of them. There is an online system available through which owners can check on the status of their claims. The system is pretty straightforward, and informs the owner if any additional documents are required.

The State Controller’s Office in CA does send out notices informing the owner whenever the holder transfers the property report. However, since many people change their names and addresses, they don’t receive their notification. The State Controller’s Office also publishes a report in newspapers throughout the state. The state charges no fees for processing claims and reuniting owners and heirs with their property.


  1. Nancy D Brentano says:

    Widow of Ronald Brentano looking for unclaimed property

  2. denise handy says:

    I mailed a weekly grand scratch off and never received the money this was in 1995.
    I think the mail personal took it.

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