Unclaimed funds awaiting residents

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2005

Money! That should get most people’s attention and that is what Kay Ivey, Alabama’s State Treasurer, is hoping.

It is money that is tied up in the unclaimed property division of the state treasury’s office.

It is money and other personal assets that are considered lost or abandoned when an owner cannot be located after a specified period of time.

That is what Ralph Ainsworth, the program director, told Greenville Rotary members Thursday.

Unclaimed property can include savings accounts, checking accounts, dividends, certificates of deposit, gift certificates, insurance benefits, unpaid wages, commissions, uncashed checks, death benefits insurance payments money orders, refunds, stocks and safe deposit box items.

This program and the law with it are designed to collect, safeguard and return lost or forgotten property to its rightful owner.

On Friday, Anthony Leigh, the spokesman for Ivey, said there are hundreds of Butler Countians who have unclaimed money or property waiting for them.

&uot;We have hundreds of thousands of names of people from all over the state who have something waiting for them,&uot; he said.

&uot;We are constantly trying to get all Alabamians to call us so that they can learn if there is unclaimed property waiting for them.&uot;

The list as of Thursday is quite extensive.

It contains the names of local residents, doctors, lawyers, businesses, civic groups and much more. But the money or property remains unclaimed.

Reclaiming it begins with a call.

&uot;When someone calls us, we do a search to see if they are in our database and if there is a match, we mail a form for them to complete,&uot; he said.

&uot;We have to have people prove who they are so we ask for a valid driver’s license or utility statement to verify authenticity.&uot;

Once you have proved you are the rightful owner or heir, Leigh said it takes a couple of weeks for the staff to process the claim.

&uot;Once we get it complete, we contact the state comptroller to cut a check,&uot; he said.

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

&uot;We are getting record numbers of companies sending payments to us,&uot; he said.

&uot;Last year those numbers totaled $34 million.

We paid out over 43,000 claims through the department in 2004.&uot;

The treasurer’s office suggests everyone use the free service to locate the unclaimed property because there is no need to hire a third party to search for Alabama Unclaimed Property.

To perform a search, you can call the treasurer’s office toll free at 888-844-8400.

You can request an inquiry form and you can also conduct search online.

&uot;Treasurer Ivey offers a consumer’s advisory occasionally that there are ‘for profit’ companies out there that will do this search for you but charge you a fee,&uot; Leigh said. &uot;It is important for our citizens to know that there is no fee to use this service through the treasurer’s office. All it takes is for them to initiate it is to call us.

If someone calls you to say they’ll get your money for a fee, simply say, ‘Thank you’ and hang up.

Then call us.&uot;

Leigh said in some cases, payouts have gone over $100,000 per person.

Also, if you don’t call and get your unclaimed property, it remains with the state.

&uot;We hold it forever,&uot; he said.

&uot;In Alabama, due to the unclaimed property law, we have to hold it forever.&uot;

One local resident on the list is Colin &uot;Big C&uot; MacQuire.

On Friday he said he knew he was the on the list but never could remember to follow through with it.

&uot;I was aware that I was on the list, but I remember finding out when I was doing a lot of traveling,&uot; he said.

&uot;I had the paperwork but just never sent it in.&uot;

The two companies on the list are insurance companies and both tried to pay him in 1999 and in 1995.

He said he assumes it is overpayment on premiums.

&uot;I’m assuming that, but I really don’t know,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know why they couldn’t have found me. I haven’t moved away, but I was out of town along the way.&uot;

He said the thought that there is money waiting for him is exciting and he planned to contact the treasurer’s office immediately.

&uot;I’m very curious now and who knows I might be able to use the money for something,&uot; he said.

After talking with MacQuire, he called the toll free number and gave his information.

Within minutes he was back on the phone and said the process was quick and simple.

&uot;I called them and talked to them, and now they are going to mail me the form I need to fill out,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s exciting to think about it.&uot;

Under that law, this is how you can claim your property:

N When a financial institution holds your money in an account, and there has been no activity, or you have not communicated regarding the account (in most cases) for at least five years, the institution presumes it is abandoned. At this point the institution turns it over to the State Treasurer who acts as custodian of that money.


The owners’ names are advertised in newspapers in the county

of their last known addresses. If you can establish ownership you may reclaim your money from the Unclaimed Property Division.

N The quickest and easiest way to recover money you may have forgotten is for you to review our Unclaimed Property procedures, search your memory, discuss it with your family and re-create your financial history.