The other day, I was reading an article - which unfortunately I cannot find right now. I am sure it was online, as I rarely read anything offline any longer. This article pointed to the NC Unclaimed Property site, where you can search for unclaimed property belonging to you that is just waiting to find its way home.
Before I continue, I should say that I'm really quite good - anal, really - about keeping track of things. I balance the checkbook (including not just checks, but credit cards, savings accounts and even retirement accounts) regularly. Some might even say religiously. I have done so for years. I even keep backups and backups of backups. I can search the history going back to 1998 for just about anything. Put another way: It would be highly unusual that anything went missing.
But sure enough, I had unclaimed property listed on the site.
It isn't that I had hit the lottery or anything. As it turned out, when I first moved to North Carolina, I was required to leave a deposit for phone service, since I had never had service with Bellsouth. Yes, Bellsouth. They don't even exist any longer. That's how old this property is! Well, when I moved - more than 14 years ago - they couldn't find me to return my deposit. The deposit went to the state, where it's been sitting all these years.
After filling out the fields to verify I could fill out some forms and provide a stack of paperwork that it is indeed my property, I received the check, for $71.64. Sweet.
A few caveats.
Anyone can search for anyone. This makes it nice for you to be able to help out your family. However, they are going to have to do the heavy lifting (the filing). This is because of what you have to send in. It isn't terribly difficult - but you have to prove who you say you are - social security card, income tax records, etc. That's the easy part. The difficult part is proving that you are also the original owner. This can involve something like a credit report or even utility bill, but it need to be from the original address. If it is from 14 years ago, that can be hard to dig up.
Luckily, since I tend to save all these things - and in fact, have many of them in digital copy (somewhere), I figured it out eventually, and was $71.64 richer (less a few cents for postage).
If you don't live in NC, don't fret. Most other states have similar programs. It's also probably a good idea to check alternate spellings, switch first and middle names, and even first and last names, or even just use an initial for the first name.
Best of luck!