California State Controller's seal

About the Unclaimed Property Program

What is Unclaimed Property?

Unclaimed Property is generally defined as any financial asset that has been left inactive by the owner for a period of time specified in the law, generally three (3)  years. The California Unclaimed Property Law does NOT include real estate. Unused gift certificates are also generally excluded from unclaimed property and are not sent to the State as unclaimed property. 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

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How Does The State Get Unclaimed Property?

California’s Unclaimed Property 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 after there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for a period of time specified in the law—generally three (3) years. Often, contact is lost when the owner forgets that the account exists, or moves and does not leave a forwarding address, or the forwarding order expires. In some cases, the owner dies and the heirs have no knowledge of the property.

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How Do I Keep My Property From Being Turned Over To The State Controller's Office?

There are several steps you can take to prevent your property from being turned over to the State:

  • Cash your dividend, interest, or refund checks promptly.
  • Keep accurate records of all financial accounts and review them at least once a year.
  • Maintain annual activity on accounts.
  • Provide your financial institutions with a primary contact, secondary contact, or beneficiary contact name.
  • Remain aware of your accounts.
  • Respond promptly to notifications from the business or the State Controller’s Office that your property may be transferred to the state if you do not contact the business within the stated time period.

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What Will Happen To The Contents Of My Safe Deposit Box If I Fail To Pay My Annual Safe Deposit Box Fees?

The contents of your safe deposit box will be reported to the State Controller's Office after three years if you have had no contact with the bank. After the contents have been turned over to the State Controller’s Office, they may be sold at auction 18 months after the due date for reporting the safe deposit box to the State Controller's Office. (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1563(a))

Net proceeds from the sale will be credited to an account in your name, less any bank liens, and will be paid when a valid claim is submitted. Properties relating to California’s military history will be held in trust at the California State Military Museum. Property with no apparent commercial value will be held for at least seven years after which it may be destroyed. (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1565)

The State Controller's Office has not sold at auction any properties since May 22, 2006 and has not destroyed any properties with no apparent commercial value since May 16, 2006.

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What Will Happen To My Investment Accounts (i.e. Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds) If I Do Not Maintain Contact With My Broker Or The Company In Which My Funds Are Invested?

Your investment accounts will be turned over to the State Controller's Office, which is required by law to sell the securities, no sooner than 18 months and no later than 20 months, after the due date for reporting the securities to the State Controller's Office. Net proceeds will be credited to an account in your name until such time a valid claim is submitted.(California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1563 (b)).

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Why Does California Have An Unclaimed Property Law?

The Unclaimed Property Law was passed to protect consumers. It prevents businesses with unclaimed property from keeping your money and using it as business income. The law provides California citizens a single source, the State Controller’s Office, to check for unclaimed property that may be reported by businesses from around the nation and enables the State to return property, or the net proceeds from any legally required sale of the property, to its rightful owner or their heirs.

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What Efforts Are Made To Find Owners?

All 'Holders' (corporations, businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies) of Unclaimed Property are required by law to make attempts 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 the owner that the account will be transferred to the State Controller's Office for safekeeping if the owner does not contact them and let them know what they want done with their property.

For Unclaimed Property received between 1990 – 2007, the State Controller's Office, by law, was permitted to notify only those owners whose address reported by the business was different from the owner’s address on file with the Franchise Tax Board. This restriction effectively prohibited the State Controller’s Office from contacting approximately 80% of owners. The State Controller’s Office is now going back through this property and notifying, without restriction, all owners for whom we can find a current address through the Franchise Tax Board.

Starting in 2008, the State Controller’s Office has been able to send notices to all owners whose property is about to be transferred to the State. These notices are sent out before the property is to be transferred which gives owners an opportunity to retrieve their property directly from the business holding the property.

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Do You Contact The Heirs If The Owners Of Unclaimed Property Are Deceased?

No. businesses reporting unclaimed property only report the name of the owner. We do not have the ability to determine whether the owner is deceased and who their rightful heirs might be. We recommend you search for property for the names of anyone who might have named you as an heir. If you are an heir you may file a claim for the property.

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How Do I Find Out If I Have Unclaimed Property?

Owners or heirs can search for their property directly on the California State Controller's Office Web site and file a claim for free. Possible ownership may be indicated if the information you provide results in a match. It is important to remember that many people have the same name, so the property listed may not necessarily be yours. We will be able to determine your ownership with the documentation that you provide when you send in the claim.

Search now to find out if the State Controller's Office is holding Unclaimed Property for you.

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Where Do I Go To Search For Unclaimed Property Held By Other States?

You can start your search for Unclaimed Property held by other states through the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) website.

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Where Do I Go To Search For Unclaimed Property Held By Other California Government Agencies?

You can start your search for Unclaimed Property held by other California Government agencies through their websites.

California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) Examples of unclaimed property held by CalSTRS include uncashed and returned checks, unclaimed survivor benefits, or dormant accounts.

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The Business Where I Had My Account States That It No Longer Has Record Of It. What Do I Do?

Locate any statement or original document from that account and present it to the business or financial institution for them to research. If the institution insists that they are unable to find a record of your account, Contact Us.

Please note:
If you believe you have accounts that did not appear in your search results, please return to our site at a later date, as names are continually added to our Unclaimed Property database. You might also search under the name and/or address you had at the time you had the account. Search now to see if the State Controller's Office is holding Unclaimed Property for you.

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How Do I Claim Property That Was Transferred To The State Controller's Office?

You must file a claim with the State Controller’s Office. Start your search to find your property and create your claim. Your claim may be eligible to be filed electronically. For more information about electronic filing, see About Electronic Claim Filing. If your claim is not eligible to be filed electronically, or you prefer to file a paper claim, you will be directed to print and mail in your claim form along with proof of ownership. For paper claim filing instructions, please go to Claim Instructions and Forms. If you have reason to believe that your property has been sent to the State Controller’s Office for safekeeping, but you did not find your property listed on our website, please contact the State Controller’s Office, Unclaimed Property Division at (800) 992-4647 for assistance.

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Is There A Fee?

If you file directly with us

No. The State Controller's Office processes Unclaimed Property claims free of charge.
Owners or heirs can claim their property directly from us without any service charges or fees.

If you are represented by an Investigator

Yes. Investigators (sometimes referred to as Asset Locators or Heir Finders) may charge you a fee. It is against the law for investigators to charge a fee greater than 10% of the value of the property that is returned to you. (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1582) There are no fee restrictions for County Probated Estate claims.

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Will I Be Paid Interest On The Property For The Time That The State Controller's Office Held The Property?

No. The California Unclaimed Property Law was amended in August 2003 to eliminate the payment of interest. Please refer to the Unclaimed Property Law and Regulations. (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1540(c))

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Am I Entitled To Any Dividends Or Stock Splits For My Securities While They Are Being Held By Your Office?

The property owner or heir is entitled to the benefits from any corporate actions—such as dividends, mergers, and stock splits—taken by the issuing company while the stock is being held by the State Controller's Office for safekeeping.

If your securities have been sold as required by California’s Unclaimed Property Law, then you are entitled to receive the net proceeds of the sale and any dividends, interest, or other increments realized before the securities were sold by us.

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How Do I Donate My Unclaimed Property To The State?

In order to donate unclaimed property to the State of California, the apparent owner must file a claim for the property and prove entitlement.  At the time of filing a claim, a written designation of a fund or appropriation to receive the donation may be made.  If specific designation to a particular fund or appropriation is not made, the law requires the donation be credited to the State School Fund.  

You can use this Donation to the State of California form to make a designation of the fund or appropriation to benefit from your donation.

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What if I Owe Money To A State Or Local Agency; Will That Affect My Claim?

California Government Code Sections 926.8 and 12419, allows the Franchise Tax Board to intercept payments from the state lottery, tax refunds and unclaimed property funds for debts owed to a state, city or county agencies.  The State Controller's Office intercepts only the amount owed and the intercept will apply even if you are in an installment agreement with said agency.  If you have questions or disagree with the intercept, you may call the agency listed on the intercept notice that is mailed to you.   The State Controller’s Office Unclaimed Property has no information on the reason for the intercept.

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