Finding money you didn’t know you had is like discovering lost treasure. For many people, there’s treasure in old, forgotten bank accounts.

Las Vegas resident Michael Catania was surprised when he plugged his name into, a website for unclaimed-property searches, and learned that Massachusetts was holding money for him from a forgotten certificate of deposit.

The adjunct music professor had lived in four states over the past decade, including Massachusetts, where he had opened the $1,500 CD that had long since matured.

“I’m embarrassed that I forgot about an account with that much money,” he says, “but I was moving around a lot and the bank didn’t know how to reach me.”

According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, a group of state officers, nearly $42 billion is sitting in state coffers, having come from financial institutions and other businesses with dormant accounts. In addition to old bank accounts, the property often is from unclaimed insurance policies, uncashed paychecks and abandoned safe-deposit boxes.

Does some of that $42 billion belong to you? Here are some tips to help you figure out if it does:

By law, organizations that hold money for account holders must make reasonable efforts to contact the owners, says Toni Nuernberg, executive director of the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization, a trade group that helps holders of unclaimed property comply with state regulations.

“If the organization isn’t able to get in touch with the owner after a certain period — generally three to five years, depending on the state’s requirements — the property has to be turned over to the state,” she says. And that’s where it usually remains “in perpetuity” until claimed.

Catania says once he proved he was the owner of the bank CD, Massachusetts sent the money to his new address. “The check took about six weeks to arrive,” he recalls. “It was a great feeling to know I’d reclaimed all that money after spending just a few minutes searching on the web.”

» MORE: How to open a bank account and what you’ll need

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @margarette.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

The article Are You Owed Money From a Forgotten Bank Account? originally appeared on NerdWallet.