The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Unclaimed Property?

Unclaimed property can be any financial asset that has been abandoned by its owner for a period of time specified by law. Common types of unclaimed property include:

  • dormant bank accounts
  • utility refunds
  • uncashed checks
  • unclaimed wages
  • safe-deposit boxes
  • insurance dividends
  • stock certificates and dividends

How does property become abandoned?

  • People move and simply forget about an account or deposit.
  • People get a check, place it in a drawer (something they will take care of later) and forget.
  • When people die, relatives are often unaware of an old bank account, lock box or a stock the deceased may have owned.
  • People divorce, move, perhaps remarry and forget to notify everyone.
  • A clerical error at a company; perhaps the name or street is displaced or altered by a honest mistake causing mail to be returned as nondeliverable to the company.

Why does the state become involved?

The courts have long maintained the states' rights are derivative of the missing owner. In other words, the state stands in the shoes of the missing owner.

How long do I have to claim my money?

The State Treasurer's office maintains custody until the rightful owner or his or her heirs claims the money. At no time is an owner (or legal heirs) barred from claiming unclaimed property.

What does Iowa do to find the owners of unclaimed property?

  • First class mailings
  • Publication of the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt
  • Listings displayed at the State Fair, Clay County Fair, and the Cattle Congress
  • TV special segments for the news
  • Public Service Announcements
  • Radio spots

Do I have to pay to get my money back from the state treasurer?

  • No! The rightful owners or their legal heirs always have the right to claim the assets, there is no time limit to file a claim, and the state treasurer office provides this service free of charge.
  • If you are contacted by an individual or firm offering to return your property to you for a fee, contact the state treasurer's office before you sign an agreement.
  • However, if you do sign an agreement for property held by the state treasurer's office, the law is very specific. Again, before signing any agreement, please read the following excerpts from the Iowa Code.

Per Iowa Code, Chapter 556, all agreements to pay compensation to recover or assist in the recovery of unclaimed property reported under Iowa Law, made within twenty-four (24) months after the date payment or delivery to the State Treasurer, are unenforceable.

Per Iowa Code, Chapter 556, agreements made after twenty-four months from the date of payment or delivery are only valid if the fee for such services is not more than 15% of the value of the recoverable property, and the agreement:

  • is in writing and signed by the owner,
  • discloses the nature and value of the property and
  • discloses the name and address of the person in possession.

Per Iowa Code, Chapter 556, A person shall not attempt to collect or collect a fee or compensation for discovering property presumed abandoned under this chapter unless the person is licensed as a private investigation business pursuant to Chapter 80A.

Per Iowa Code, Chapter 714.8(16), a person is guilty of a fraudulent practice if they knowingly provide false information to the treasurer of state when claiming an interest in unclaimed property held by the state or knowingly provide false information to a person or fail to disclose the nature, value, and location of unclaimed property prior to entering into a contract to receive compensation to recover or assist in the recovery of property reported as unclaimed pursuant to section 556.11.

Per Iowa Administrative Rule 781- 9.14 (2), A claim form signed by a finder shall not be reviewed by the division. The apparent owner or owner's legal representative shall make direct contact with the division and sign the claim form. All communication regarding the claim will be sent to the claimant. A signed, dated and notarized copy of any agreement or contract between a finder and an owner shall be included with the filing of any claim. Handwritten agreements or contracts will not be accepted.

What if I lived in another state?

Each state has an unclaimed property division. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) maintains a web site with information regarding each state.

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