Jan. 17, 2012 -- This week, I'm answering questions from readers, because there's an unclaimed money question that keeps coming up again and again. That tells me there's a need, so here goes. Here are two samples of the questions I've gotten:
Q: Where do you look when a company changes a name? Like Kresge to Kmart. And now Sears has bought that. My husband's father had stock in Kresge, but he has no idea where to look.
Q: I need assistance with an unclaimed money issue. Twenty plus years ago, my husband bought 25 shares of Naugles' stock. The company tanked but was bought out before bankruptcy. That company was bought out and eventually became PepsiCo. If the stocks, indeed, converted to PepsiCo, my husband is a wealthy man. How do I search?
A: People often make the mistake of trying to track down missing stocks by company name rather than by their own name. No matter how many times a company changes names, if shares still have value and go unclaimed, the company is supposed to submit those to the states for safekeeping. The account should be in the name of the stockholder, not the company.
The shares will either be held by the state where the stockholder lived when they bought the stock or in the state where the company is based or in the state in which it is incorporated. So the key is to search at least those three states and --thanks to the internet—you can actually search all 50 states fairly easily, just to be thorough. Here are the two key FREE websites you will use:
If you would like to search several states at once, you can do so at missingmoney.com. This is a free site. When you first search, you are prompted to enter your home state. Be sure to search again and this time choose "all states and provinces" on the drop down menu. It's not actually ALL states, because they don't all participate. On the site's home page you can view a map of which states are not included. If you have lived in states that do not participate in this site, or the company whose stock you're trying to track down was in one of these states, you'll need to go on to the other key website, described next.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) has set up a free website at www.unclaimed.org that will link you to the appropriate department in each state that holds unclaimed funds.
(IMPORTANT: this is a .ORG website, NOT a .com. If you mistakenly type in .com, you will be taken to a pay site. It is never necessary to pay a fee or a finder to help you find unclaimed money.) Use Unclaimed.org to complete your search of the 50 states so you will know you have done everything you can to find your missing shares.