Connecting state and local government leaders
COMMENTARY | State treasurers are returning millions in unclaimed property to residents.
Right now, people across the country are dealing with unprecedented economic uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While state treasurers aren’t in a position to provide sustained relief, they can at least reunite people with unclaimed property that is rightfully theirs.
State treasurers are tasked with administrating their state’s unclaimed property—returning uncashed paychecks, stocks and bonds, safe deposit box contents and family heirlooms to their rightful owners. When the holder of the unclaimed property cannot locate the owner after an extended period of time, generally three to five years, the property is passed to the state and designated as unclaimed property. Existing unclaimed property programs return more than $3 billion of unclaimed property annually, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have programs that work to ensure money and property owed are returned, rather than getting stuck in financial institutions, businesses, governments or other entities. Approximately one in 10 Americans have unclaimed property waiting to be claimed, and state treasurers take pride in making sure they return as much as they possibly can.
Although our physical offices are closed in the interest of public health, our staff is still committed to returning unclaimed property while teleworking. Many unclaimed property claims are continuing to be filed and processed by phone or through state’s online databases.
Thousands of people across the country are being reunited with their unclaimed property every month. Since January, our three state treasury offices have returned more than $17 million in unclaimed property to hundreds of the rightful owners.
During a single week in February, $1.29 million worth of unclaimed property was returned to Kentucky residents. In Mississippi, $3.5 million worth of unclaimed property has been returned to state residents since January. West Virginia has returned a whopping $13 million worth of unclaimed property since the start of the year with one former West Virginia resident being reunited with $1.7 million dollars from a trust set up by his parents.
With increased awareness, we will be able to return even more.
Despite the significant amount of unclaimed property returned, these programs aren’t that well-known. Many people mistakenly believe they are the targets of a scam when they are first contacted about their unclaimed property. If you are indeed the target of a scam, you’d likely be asked for some type of payment. True unclaimed property programs simply want to give you what is yours and we do not charge you for that service.
Returning property to its rightful owner is a responsibility that state treasurers take very seriously and our staff and systems, albeit remotely, will continue to process unclaimed property claims. So, check your state’s unclaimed property database and see what you find. You just might be the next person reunited with $1.7 million.
Allison Ball is the state treasurer for Kentucky. David McRae is the state treasurer for Mississippi. John Perdue is the state treasurer for West Virginia.