07/10/2017Unclaimed property returns more than $12 million
State Treasurer John Perdue’s unclaimed property division returned more than $12 million to West Virginia rightful owners in fiscal 2017, preliminary records show.
Initial calculations show the division returned $12.4 million in the 2017 fiscal year ending June 30. The total came on 8,112 claims.
“Each year we strive for better ways to reunite owners with their assets,” Treasurer Perdue said. “I’m very, very proud of what we’ve done this year, particularly considering the harsh budgetary climate under which we have been working. It’s a tribute to our staff.”
Holders of unclaimed property reported $30 million on 5,104 receipts. Examples of holders are banks, businesses and other entities which complied with the law in reporting unclaimed property to the Treasury. Unclaimed property is any asset from which a person has been unintentionally separated, such as a left-behind utility deposit, abandoned safe deposit box contents and liquidated stock proceeds and dividends.
Unclaimed property holders must report the last known address for that person. Upon transfer to the Treasury, thus begins the process of finding rightful owners, through the efforts of field representatives, two published newspaper inserts a year and a well-maintained website at www.wvtreasury.com.
“We use all tools at our disposal,” Treasurer Perdue said.
An additional weapon in the arsenal is an automated letter system. Many owner addresses are outdated. Updated databases are plotted against existing names and automated letters generated.
That proactive approach netted 131 claims filed, totaling more than $100,000. “We greatly look forward to expanding that program,” the Treasurer said. “That will be a keen focus as we enter fiscal 2018.”
Technology also allowed the division to process 3,954 e-claims worth $2 million. More people filed e-claims by far than any other method. An e-claim may be filed by going to www.wvtreasury.com and following prompts. The e-claim system is designed for smaller, individual claims filed by West Virginia residents. Claimants enter identifying information such as a West Virginia driver’s license number and social security number. Claims are transmitted electronically, with no paper required.
Leading the dollar amount category were 1,891 owner claims, amounting to $3.9 million returned. An owner claim means the owner became apprised of the asset and filed a paper claim, often from the form contained in the website. These are for people who like the convenience of a website form but prefer dealing in paper.
Treasury field representatives generated $3.3 million. They are often tasked with leading constituents through complicated estate closures or heirship cases.
The twice-a-year newspaper advertisements generated $722,840 on 1,008 claims, which may not be a full representation of their impact. Some owner claims undoubtedly begin with word of mouth generated by the inserts.
Approximately $1.2 million is contained by 54 “reciprocal” claims in which the owner’s last known address is in another state. State Treasury officials send the asset amount to the state of the person’s most recent known address and let that state’s program take over.
In the last two budget-tightened fiscal years, Treasurer Perdue’s office has returned $13.8 million and $12.4 million to rightful owners. Both amounts of return represent more than 40 percent of what the office took in, a commendable figure in the world of unclaimed property, where people must be found before they can be paid.