Financial institutions close, merge or change names. People move, separate or die. These are all reasons why bank accounts may become forgotten or lost. The good news is that funds are locatable even if the bank closed, as long as it was an FDIC insured institution. Tracing old accounts requires a systematic approach of following publicly available and free resources. Be wary of companies charging you a recovery fee since these organisations are using the same resources and have no guarantee of finding anything.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Old tax returns
- Old loan paperwork
- Social Security Number
- Death certificate (if applicable)
Look through old tax returns, loan applications, bank statements or anything else that indicates bank accounts. Tax returns would reflect interest income. Loan applications might list all assets and accounts. Check desk drawers, filing cabinets and safe deposit boxes for these documents.
Check phone books and website directories for local banks in your area. Call customer service, providing them with the primary Social Security Number for the account and see if there are any existing accounts. If you are the executor or trustee, banks will not give you any account details until you provide proof of your position, though representatives may confirm whether an account exists.
Go to the FDIC "Bank Find" website. Enter the address you have for the bank in the search parameters. The database will search for name changes, mergers or FDIC seizures giving you the information to find the bank.
Check with the state controller's office for unclaimed funds. When bank accounts are inactive for three to five years, banks declare them inactive. After five years they may turn them over to the state controller to hold in trust for the account holder until claimed. Go to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA, for your state controller's contact information.
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