Ala. Treasurer’s Vault has Plenty of Unclaimed Valuables

May 1, 2007

The Alabama state treasurer’s job is to reconnect lost items such as pearls, coins, timepieces, old Elvis records and a half a million dollars to their rightful owners, and right now the office has $317 million in property that has yet to be claimed.

Businesses are required by state law to turn over items such as abandoned savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds and insurance premiums to the state. Last week, the treasurer’s office reached the $100 million mark in paid out claims.

There are drawers and drawers in the treasury’s vault holding precious items in their temporary home. Old Elvis records, Sterling silver flatware and baseball cards are just some of the items on hand.

Anthony Leigh, the state’s deputy treasurer, said items retrieved from abandoned safe deposit boxes are not always “valuable” financially.

“It may not be valuable to me or you, but it was valuable to the person who put in there,” he said. “It has sentimental value. We often see newspaper clippings in safe deposit boxes.”

Leigh and State Treasurer Kay Ivey are trying to get the word out about unclaimed property.

“There’s no fee to check our database to see if your name is on there. There’s no fee to claim, and there’s no fee to file property if we find a successful match,” Leigh said.

“We’re working hard to make the unclaimed property process available and accessible to property owners,” Ivey said. “We want to get the assets back into the hands of the owners to which they belong.”

A Homewood business owner could probably find use for the $552,000 he or she has just sitting in the treasurer’s coffers. The half million dollars is the largest amount of unclaimed property the state’s possession.

“Most of all the property we receive is in the form of cash,” Leigh said. “When (businesses) turn over that abandoned property they give us the last known name or any identity they may have on that person, a policy number or a social security number.”

Believe it or not, some people have not been willing to claim their money. Leigh said an elderly woman in south Alabama refuses to file a claim for her $200,000.

“We have contacted her about the claim,” Leigh said. “She’s a little reluctant to fill out the form because she doesn’t want her friends and family to know she came into that much money.

“The treasurer and I were in her hometown recently. We took the paperwork by her home and tried to make it as simple as possible for her. To my knowledge, she still has not filled out the paperwork.”

During the 2006 fiscal year, the state treasury received more than $66.5 million and paid out more than $22.9 million to 39,242 individuals.

But people with unclaimed property have to act quickly. Every two to three years, the treasury auctions off unclaimed items.

“Hopefully, someone steps forward to claim them,” Leigh said. “If you come to us five years later and the property was auctioned off three years ago, obviously we can’t give it back to you. We can give you the amount it sold for in that auction.”

Information from: Montgomery Advertiser,

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