Australians have more than $1.2 billion of unclaimed money from dormant bank accounts, life insurance, shares and other investments just waiting to be claimed.

Last year, more than 25,000 people claimed over $158 million, but more is being added to the total every year.

Unclaimed money is transferred to the Commonwealth after it’s been unclaimed for 7 years. The financial regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) manages that money, it’s always claimable by the rightful owner, even after transferal to ASIC, and there’s no time limit on claims, ASIC deputy chairman Peter Kell says.

Even if you don’t think you have any missing money, it might be worthwhile doing a search on the government’s Money Smart website. It’s free, quick and easy, says Mr Kell.

According to ASIC, the largest portion of missing money is from forgotten bank accounts, with $483 million lost, while there’s another $299 million sitting in shares people have lost.

ASIC unclaimed money

Source:ASIC

Reasons for the money going missing include:

  • You may have moved house without leaving a forwarding address (who does that these days?)
  • Haven’t made a transaction on an old cheque or savings account in many years
  • Stopped making payments on a life insurance policy
  • Dividend or interest cheques are no longer being received. Many companies no longer pay dividends via cheque.
  • Or, you were an executor of a deceased estate.

Once you’ve found any missing money, you need to contact the relevant bank or other financial institution where the money is held if it listed as banking or life insurance. The institution will forward a claim to ASIC, and ASIC aims to have the claimed turned around within 28 days.

$16 billion in lost super

While you are at it, you may as well search to see if you have any lost superannuation by using the Australian Tax Office website. According to the ATO, there is more than $16 billion in lost superannuation held in more than 6 million accounts at the end of December 2015.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.