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Southwest Missouri has over 30 million dollars in unclaimed property, and with a web-based search engine in tact, finding out if you’re entitled to some of it could be just a click away. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes tells us how the state’s largest lost and found has some Missouri residents seeing dollar signs.
Missouri is the fifth state in the nation to have an online claims system. Over 600 million dollars is currently unclaimed by Missourians.
“One in ten Missourians have unclaimed property, and the average return is 365 dollars.”
That’s Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel. With the help of his administration, in 2010 Zweifel has returned a record breaking 35 million dollars in unclaimed property to 92,000 account holders. He says there are many ways people could have assets they don’t know about.
“So we receive property by statute after an account is dormant for five years or more. So, it could be a safe deposit box, but it also could be an old escrow account during a home sale that wasn’t cleared out. It could be a stock certificate that was given as a gift as a young child that has sort of sat there and really not been accessed or used. It could be any number of things,” says Zweifel.
Zweifel also says that it is his duty to make sure all property gets to its rightful owner. In order to save space, the state sells many items that are forgotten about. The money each item brings is then put into an account ready to be paid out to the person who owns it, once they’re found.
However, there is one item that Zweifel says you can’t put a price on. Military medals are one of the unique things found in unclaimed property. A recently signed bill protects those medals, and Zweifel says they do everything possible to find the rightful owners. But if an owner can’t be found, the state does the next best thing.
“We’re now allowed by statute to be able to partner with universities and veterans organizations to really promote these medals, display them, and ensure that they see the light of day so that Missourians can appreciate the sacrifices that other Missourians have made on their behalf,” says Zweifel.
Zweifel, who took office in 2009, got Missouri’s paperless claims procedure up and running in June. That site includes a paperless system that allows residents to quickly and easily submit their claims online. He says for many people who only had a few dollars to claim, the paperwork seemed like it wasn’t worth it.
“The five dollar claims, the 10, 15, 25 dollar claims where people might’ve said well it’s just not worth my time to fill out this piece of paper and send it in. For many of those account owners they’re going to be able to do this process without a piece of paper, do it online completely, and then have that check back to them pretty quickly,” says Zweifel.
In December, 2008, it took people who had submitted claims an average of 43 days to receive a check in the mail. Now, the average is around 15 days. Although some claims over 250 dollars still require paperwork, Zweifel says the new process should be one more way for Missourians to get what they’ve paid for.
There is never a charge for the return of unclaimed property, and property is never sold to benefit the government. If it’s not claimed, it will just sit and earn interest for its owner.
For more information you can visit our website: KSMU.org.
For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.