California State Controller's seal

About Unclaimed Property

What is unclaimed property?

Unclaimed property is generally defined as any financial asset left inactive by its owner for a period of time, typically three years. California unclaimed property law does not include real estate.

The most common types of unclaimed property are:

  • Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
  • Uncashed cashier’s checks and money orders
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Matured or terminated insurance policies
  • Estates
  • Mineral interests and royalty payments
  • Trust funds and escrow accounts
  • Utility account deposits

Unclaimed property is returned to owners in the form of a check from the state.

How does the state get unclaimed property?

California law requires corporations, businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies (referred to as “holders”) to annually report and deliver property to the State Controller’s Office if there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for a specified period of time (generally three years).

Contact is often lost when the owner forgets the account exists or moves and does not leave a forwarding address. In some cases, the owner dies with heirs who have no knowledge of the property.

What efforts are made to find property owners?

California law requires all holders (corporations, businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies) of unclaimed property to attempt to contact owners before reporting their property to the State Controller's Office.

Holders are required to send a notice to the owner’s last known address informing them that the property will be transferred to the State Controller's Office for safekeeping if the owner does not contact them to retrieve it.

The State Controller’s Office sends notices to all owners of property that will be transferred to the state. These notices are sent out before the property is to be transferred, giving owners an opportunity to retrieve property directly from the holder.