It’s not always easy connecting people with their long-forgotten money.
The state has $203 million worth of dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, insurance money and royalties from mineral extraction.
And that’s after a record-breaking year where State Treasurer Ron Estes and assistants visited all 105 counties to return $14,433,929 worth of unclaimed property.
People often lose track of their money when they move and leave behind utility deposits or when relatives are unaware of property or investments left behind by dead relatives. Most businesses, by law, must report unclaimed property to the state within five years.
The pile of unclaimed property and the amount returned to owners and heirs have steadily grown over the years. In 1980, the state gave back $15,710 worth of property. It had reached more than $1 million by 1990, $5 million by 1995 and up to more than $10 million last year.
“I’d like to see the numbers go down,” Estes said. “But it seems that’s the society we’re in now, being more mobile and moving place to place.”
By law, the state has to hang on to the money until it’s claimed, which in some cases may be forever. But, meanwhile, the state can invest it through the pooled money investment board. Estes said the investments are low-risk, and the interest and dividends are deposited into the state’s general fund.
Estes said that his office is looking into options for offloading long-abandoned assets of minimal value because as the years go on, it becomes less likely someone will claim the money.
Claims for forgotten property have increased through the years as Internet searches have grown. But Estes said a new law he pushed for that allows more address sharing with the Department of Revenue has helped. And he said the statewide tour also attracted a lot of people who wanted to find out if they have money awaiting their claim.
“It’s a whole lot more successful when we can reach out to people,” he said.
Estes said several people have claimed more than $100,000. And, earlier this year, someone got about $516,000 from a forgotten life insurance policy and a few other assets. He recommends people check back for unclaimed property every couple years.
Perhaps the most interesting items are those found in safety deposit boxes, which are kept in a vault in the treasurer’s office.
Estes said the state gets about 600 boxes a year. He said along with the expected savings bonds, pocket watches and jewelry are some unexpected things — valuable baseball cards, such as a rookie Willie Mays card, early editions of Marvel comic books and gold bars.
All await their rightful owners or heirs.
The state can auction such contents off after holding them for three years.
Among items the state currently has up for bid on eBay are: a diamond necklace, a gold ring, sterling silver ID with the name Tommy Treesh etched into it and a few antique pocket watches.
With five days left to bid on those items, the highest offer on any of the items was $28.