The Mystery of the Old Bank Account


Keeping track of personal finances can become like detective work when there is scant evidence of items such as an old bank account or a receipt for a safe-deposit box. This situation arises most commonly for executors of estates or for someone who is taking care of financial matters for an ill or elderly friend or relative.

The first job is to determine whether the financial institution is still open, has closed, or has merged with another entity. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintains “Bank Find,” an online database that allows you to trace the history of any FDIC-insured institution and to find contact information for open institutions.

Once the bank is located, you can ask whether the account is still there in your name or in that of a loved one. For inquiries about someone else’s account, expect to be asked to produce appropriate documents, such as a death certificate, a court appointment as an executor, or a power of attorney or similar directive from a living person.

If the account was classified as abandoned under state law, its contents would have been transferred to the unclaimed property office in the state of the owner’s last known address. You can check to see whether any property is being held by the state by using a website maintained by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (

When the account is tracked down, you can collect the assets by presenting satisfactory proof of ownership. If the assets wound up with the state, it is possible that the state will have sold off the assets because of lack of storage space. In that event, in most instances the original owner or heirs would still have the right to claim the proceeds from that sale.