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You may be able to get back forgotten money

BY TERRY SAVAGE Modified: June 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm •  Published: June 27, 2012

Q. I am a longtime investor and left money in a mutual fund that was doing quite nicely over the years. I? never added to it, but it was growing. I received regular statements from the fund company, and I have kept them in a file.

So imagine my surprise when I received a letter saying they were going to turn my account over to the state as "abandoned property." Where did they get that idea? I called them and put a stop to it, but please warn people.

A. What you are describing is a process called "escheat" — by which financial institutions are required to turn over unclaimed property to the state. It's hard to imagine simply forgetting about a bank account, mutual fund, insurance policy or safe deposit box.

But it obviously happens all the time. Sometimes it's because there is no activity in the account. Other times it is because someone died and never let family members or heirs know about accounts or property.

According to the website, where you can search state records to see if your name is on the list of unclaimed property, there is more than $32 billion waiting to be claimed. And you don't have to fall for scams offering to get your escheated assets back for you, after taking a cut.

You can go directly to the state treasurer to make your claim, backed up by appropriate documentation.

It's rare that a mutual fund account could fall into this category, but it almost happened to me a few years back. I had one fund in an IRA that I planned to hold for the very long run. So I filed away my monthly statements as they arrived and had my dividends automatically reinvested.

Imagine my surprise when I received a letter from the company telling me that if I did not respond immediately, my account would be given to the state. Needless to say, I complained loudly.

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