You Might Have Unclaimed Money Online

Navigating money transfer apps after a death

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Mollie Lacher

As part of my business, I help families find assets in their lost loved one’s name. When I first started doing this work, I assumed these assets would come in the form of forgotten stocks, life insurance policies, 401ks, unclaimed property etc. but, something surprising kept surfacing: untapped funds within money transfer accounts (think: Venmo, Paypal, Zelle, Facebook Messenger and the like). If the person you lost had a money transfer app, they could be leaving behind balances within those accounts. Read: money left on the proverbial table could be coming back to your family. 

Before going any further, let’s define what a money transfer application is. A money transfer app is an application that connects to a user’s bank account or credit card, allowing them to pay other users or receive funds from other users. It’s widely used in social settings (think: paying a friend back for a shared Uber ride), while others use these apps in a business setting. For example, those with eBay stores often receive payment through Paypal.  

So, how do you access these funds? And, how do you close out the accounts so they can’t be accessed by others? 

Accessing and transferring funds:  

1. Access the app through their phone: The most ideal and seamless way to access these funds is opening the app on the user’s phone and transferring any balances to the bank account associated with the money transfer app. 

This, of course, assumes you can get into the user’s phone, which is not always the case.  So, if you’re unable to unlock the user’s phone, here are some additional routes to take:

2. Log into their email: If you have access to the user’s email, you can try to reset the password of the money transfer app and have a reset link sent to the email associated with the account. Once you’re in, then go back and complete step 1. You can learn how to access a deceased person's Google account here

If you aren’t able to access their phone or email, then you’ll need to contact the app directly:

3. Contact the money transfer app help center: Each system has a process that typically involves sending the below information to their offices:

  • Copy of the death certificate 
  • Copy of your driver’s license 
  • Copy of documentation proving you are the executor of the estate 

Most apps will be able to either cut a check for the balance in the deceased user’s name or transfer money back to the bank associated with the account.  

Something to note: there are several money transfer apps, like Zelle, that don’t have a fund holding feature. Apps like Zelle only transfer money, the funds are received immediately and directly deposited into the bank account associated with the account. 

Mollie Lacher is the Founder and CEO of Sunny Care Services. Sunny Care Services brings planning, project management, and concierge services to families who have lost a loved one so that families can focus on healing without being burdened by the tactical and administrative tasks that come with closing out a loved one’s life.

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Categories: Managing a Death, Finance, Account Closures

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