Uncommonwealth: State treasurer's office might have a surprise for you

ctruman@herald-leader.comApril 7, 2013 

  • WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND AND WHERE

    Unclaimed property includes savings and checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, payroll checks, refunds, trust distributions, insurance payments or refunds, overpayments, utility security deposits and contents of safe-deposit boxes.

    How do I look for it? Visit Naupa.org. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has an interactive map of the states. Click on your state to search. At Kytreasury.com you can search the Kentucky state treasury's unclaimed property log. Or, email treasury.web@ky.gov or call 1-800-465-4722

    In person: The treasure finders program in Kentucky will be in Pendleton, Harrison, Nicholas, Grant, Trimble and Owen counties in April. Contact the treasury for more details.

It's impossible to argue against the virtues of free money.

This is an Uncommonwealth about uncommon wealth — the kind waiting for you and me at the Kentucky state treasurer's office.

Simply take yourself to the state treasurer's unclaimed property website, type in your name and — voilà! — there might be money or property waiting for you.

(Having dismissed the search as a baseless hoax when an acquaintance found unclaimed property, I found I had a whopping $50 waiting for me. I am no longer a skeptic.)

What awaits you might be anything from checks to contents of safe-deposit boxes. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators says that every state has unclaimed property programs. In fiscal 2011, the programs processed 2.5 million claims and distributed $2.25 billion.

The average claim was $892. An additional $41.7 billion is waiting, the association says.

In Kentucky, "We average about $25 million to $30 million a year that's reported to us," said Mark Pfeiffer, spokesman for the state treasury office. "On the books now is probably $300-plus million."

While some items are held — such as valuables in safe-deposit boxes — items such as stock certificates are converted into their cash value and held.

State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach's goal is to return $100 million to Kentuckians before he leaves office and to visit all 120 counties to do it, he said.

Hollenbach has a method for convincing the reluctant, because not everyone can be persuaded to search on the Internet. He holds treasure-finding events. Hollenbach will plow the ground by announcing the state treasurer is coming. Local officials are invited, and they in turn invite volunteers who know lots of people in the community.

The volunteers bring their cellphones and go to work on lists, seeking names they recognize. Doing that, Hollenbach said, costs the state nothing — everybody benefits from seeing their neighbors getting money — particularly in the case of some treasure hunts held last year in counties hard-hit by the spring 2012 tornadoes.

Those who have checks due do not actually get the money on the day of the treasure hunt, but they are able to fill out paperwork to get the process started.

"We invite the potential claimants to come on down," Hollenbach said during a phone interview from Northern Kentucky, where he was promoting the program a few weeks ago. "We then tell them how much is involved ... the people are calling people they hadn't usually talked to for a while, and they're giving them good news.

But reuniting people with their money is not a snag-free process. Hollenbach said some "are really resistant to the idea that they lost something."

Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said the state's treasure hunt in the Harrodsburg area, held in January, had "a great turnout."

"I did call a couple of people, and the mayor here, his wife and several of the people at city hall came down and did some of the calling," said Dedman who found his late grandfather's name on the list.

"A lot of people thought it was a prank," he said. "That's why it helps to have some local people calling and saying, 'I'm really serious. You have unclaimed money in Frankfort.'"

Said Hollenbach: "People are so cynical about government today, but when they get a call from somebody they recognize from the community ... they're much more willing to accept that yes, we're from the government, and yes, we're really here to help."

Hollenbach said several taxpayers stand out. The first treasure hunt was in Bourbon County, he recalled, where an unemployed woman found that she was due $70.

"She kept kissing and hugging me to the point it was embarrassing," Hollenbach said. "But she had been unemployed for two years, and it meant so much to her."

But an older man who had several hundred thousand dollars was less enthused.

"We couldn't get Dad to fill out the claim," Hollenbach said. "And then the son finally came in."


In person: The treasure finders program in Kentucky will be in Pendleton, Harrison, Nicholas, Grant, Trimble and Owen counties in April. Contact the treasury for more details.

WHAT YOU MIGHT FIND AND WHERE

Unclaimed property includes savings and checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, payroll checks, refunds, trust distributions, insurance payments or refunds, overpayments, utility security deposits and contents of safe-deposit boxes.

How do I look for it? Visit Naupa.org. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators has an interactive map of the states. Click on your state to search. At Kytreasury.com you can search the Kentucky state treasury's unclaimed property log. Or, email treasury.web@ky.gov or call 1-800-465-4722

In person: The treasure finders program in Kentucky will be in Pendleton, Harrison, Nicholas, Grant, Trimble and Owen counties in April. Contact the treasury for more details.

Cheryl Truman: (859)231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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