The State Treasury Office of Louisiana recently discovered more than $31,000,000 in unclaimed property life insurance.
Workers completed audits of life insurance policies and compared outstanding policies of a dozen insurance companies with the social security death master file. The reviews turned up a number of policies, including one $500,000 dollar payout.
“We have done a good job of returning the money over the life of the program,” said John Kennedy, Louisiana State Treasurer. “The reason we have so much left is because it comes in every day. As fast as we return it, we get more in.”
And, Louisiana is not alone.
Every U.S. state has unclaimed property laws that have been around since the 1930s, but they have become much broader and more enforced in the last 25 years. According to NAUPA, $41.7 billion are waiting to be returned by state unclaimed property programs.
What is unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no contact with the owner for one year or longer. This can also include the following: savings, checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, payroll checks, refunds, travelers check, gift certificates, insurance payments or refunds. Life insurance, annuities, customer over payments, utility security deposits and even safe deposit box items that can contain coins, jewelry, stocks, and other various items.
In Pennsylvania Treasury’s vault, baby teeth made into Tiffany rings had been missing since 1933 and the tangible property was recently returned to an 83 year old woman, bringing back a mixture of emotions for her baby’s lost teeth. Civil War-era currency, ornate hat pins, a baseball autographed by Willie Mays and two bottles of Coca-Cola produced in 1993 all had made their way to the treasury for safekeeping, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
In Missouri, the State Treasurer commented that the more unique property comes from safe deposit boxes received after five years of no contact with the owners. Four tickets from the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition held in Chicago, an uncut sheet of $1 bills and a baby bonnet are examples of property coming out of the 960 safe deposit boxes received since January. Almost 100 service medals have been turned in.
“Servicemen and servicewomen deserve to know we will show the recognitions of their sacrifice the utmost respect forever,” said Client Zweifel, Missouri State Treasurer. “While I will never sell a military medal, I want to guarantee this policy remains for future administrations, and we will be working hard to return what we have now.”
In November, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford announced the next Illinois Treasurer’s Online Unclaimed Property Auction featuring coins, bills and jewelry. According to a news release, 492 pieces of unclaimed property in the Illinois Treasurer’s Online Unclaimed Property Auction were to be auctioned because the rightful owners have not come forward to claim the items in more than five years.
The first place to start is your unclaimed property division in your state site or NAUPA which can offer assistance and the latest news on state auctions. There are no fees to type in your name, a maiden name or other family relations to see if property is available. It will give you an idea of its value, for example a stock dividend over or under a 100 dollars.
It is also a good idea to periodically check. One woman commented that even after ten years of her mother passing away, she found missing stock dividends held by the state since her mother had moved quite often.