These are a few examples of assets left behind in safe deposit boxes.
CHARLESTON – State Treasurer John Perdue’s office has returned approximately $110 million to rightful owners in his 18-year tenure, but Perdue actually wishes less of it ended up in his office.
That’s because unclaimed property ends up as such because people often misplace or forget about it. They become unintentionally separated from it. The state’s Unclaimed Property Act is designed to ensure companies and financial entities do not hang onto abandoned or forgotten assets and reap unfair profits. That’s why the state is charged with holding the assets in custody while it hopes a rightful owner will emerge and claim the amount.
Losing track of one’s money means the owner loses interest earnings, the ability to allocate the funds in other ways or the flexibility that extra cash might offer in a pinch. As a consumer protection message, Treasurer Perdue recommends that owners take these steps:
- Keep a record of all bank accounts.
- Indicate your interest in and awareness of all accounts by contacting the holder at least once every three years.
- Record all stock certificates and be sure to cash all dividends received.
- Record all utility deposits, including telephone, cable, and electricity deposits.
- Respond in writing to any requests for confirmation of account balances with banks, stockbrokers and utility companies.
- Prepare a check list of all accounts to be notified when you change your address. Share this list with a family member or trusted advisor.
- Notify your bank, broker, credit card issuer, employer, 401K administrator, life and health insurance contact, mortgage lender, doctor, attorney, accountant, retirement fund, investment account, mutual fund, safe deposit box account, and any others of your name and/or address changes due to marriage, divorce or other legal action.
- Notify your business contacts of your change of address when you move and when the post office notifies you that your address has been changed, even if your physical location remains the same.
- Cash all checks promptly upon receipt, no matter how small.
- In his 18-year tenure, the Treasurer’s Office has returned approximately $110 million to rightful owners, from the $630,000 record check issued a Mercer County man to sums less than $40.
On another note: should your assets end up as unclaimed property, it does not make sense to pay anyone to search for or procure the possession for you.
According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, several business firms have used the states' freedom of information acts to obtain owner information. These firms notify individuals that they will conduct a search for unclaimed property in their name for a fee.
Many states do not even provide complete records to these firms, to protect your privacy. The bottom line is that you may pay them to search if you wish, but all the information is accessible free of charge.
West Virginia residents should go to www.wvtreasury.com or call 1-800-642-8687. The national database is www.MissingMoney.com.