You may have money waiting for you and you just don’t know it.
Businesses that owe money such as wages to people they can no longer find are required to turn that money over to the state after a certain number of years, and states maintain databases of people with money waiting for them.
It’s known as unclaimed property, and Alaska currently has roughly 1.6 million individual unclaimed properties totaling $243 million on record, according to Michelle Norman and Pamela Leary, with the Alaska Department of the Treasury. If a claimant can prove they are legally entitled to the money, the state is required to pay it.
“Our primary mission is to reunite Alaskans and their money,” Norman said in an interview with the Empire.
Unclaimed property held by the state is only financial assets and generally does not include physical property, and according to Leary, bank accounts or other cash from financial institutions make up the largest category of unclaimed property in Alaska. Different kinds of assets have different periods of dormancy, or how long a business is required to hold that money before turning it over to the state. The most common dormancy period is three years, Norman said, but ranges between one and 15 years.
The contents of a safety deposit box and other tangible properties have a dormancy period of one year, according to the treasury, security deposits, three years; checking and saving accounts, five years and traveler’s checks have a dormancy period of 15 years. Permanent Fund dividends are not held by the state’s unclaimed property division, Leary said.
According to Norman, the purpose of unclaimed property divisions are to make it easier for potential claimants to find money that may be owed to them or a relative.
“It might be a refund of 25 cents or a bank account,” Norman said. “We verify ownership, and if it all meshes out, we’ll go ahead and payout that claim.”
Claims don’t expire, Norman said, so the state needs to keep a certain amount of cash on hand to be able to pay them if and when they do come up. That amount is determined annually based on historical claim payments, Leary said.
Unclaimed property does provide revenue to the state, according to Leary, but it’s a modest amount. Since the program’s creation in 1987 it’s transfered $177.8 million to the general fund, with $81 million in the past five years.
Alaska has its own website where Alaskans or their family members can search for unclaimed property, unclaimedproperty.alaska.gov. If a relative can prove they’re the legal heir to the property they’re eligible to file a claim, Norman said. There’s also a national website, missingmoney.com, which the State of Alaska reports to.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.