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Missing Money

The folks in Frankfort or Washington may have a pleasant surprise for you.

An estimated $300 billion in personal assets have been mislaid or forgotten by one in eight Americans, and you might be one of the lucky ones to collect.

Kentucky is holding $56 million, according to Jonathan Miller, the state treasurer. More than $5 million was returned to the rightful owners in 2002, he says.

Change of address
Thousands of Americans move every year and some forget to file change-of-address notices at the post office. When a check issued by the U.S. Treasury, for example, can’t be delivered, it’s returned and canceled with the funds credited to the issuing agency, such as the Social Security Administration.

Thousands of other Americans change jobs, or just quit working, leaving behind unclaimed disability, health, pension, and severance payments. There are also three million lost accounts holding an estimated $450 million in stocks, bonds, and dividends, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

To locate missing securities, first check with your broker. Then call the state unclaimed-property office. Be prepared to prove that the unclaimed property belongs to you.

If you’re looking for assets of a deceased relative, call the state unclaimed-property office.

When a company considers funds “abandoned,” depending on laws that vary from state to state—usually three to seven years—the assets go to the state.

Normally, land or other real estate is not subject to Kentucky’s unclaimed-property laws, according to Miller. He says there’s no time limit in Kentucky to claim the property, and a check will be mailed within 15 days once the required documentation is verified.

While there are professional “finders” who scour public records looking for people entitled to money they don’t know about, and then demand a large fee to divulge the source, the state of Kentucky does not have a fee. There is $1 deducted from each claim to help defray the cost of advertising unclaimed accounts.

Locating unclaimed assets
Some tips to locate unclaimed assets on your own:

• List every state you’ve lived in, job you’ve held, and union you’ve belonged to. Contact each to inquire about unclaimed benefits.
• An estimated 25 percent of the proceeds from life insurance policies go uncollected. If you are an heir, search your relative’s canceled checks or lockbox for the name of insurance companies.
• Search unexpected places. Unused balances on prepaid phone cards and gift certificates can count as unclaimed property. Ditto for frequent flier miles. Electric co-op capital credits are dollars from unused margins that are returned to its members every so many years as decided by the member-elected board. Make sure if you’ve moved that your electric co-op has your current address.
• Don’t assume anything. You might think that a deceased relative’s real estate must have been sold for delinquent taxes. But some real estate remains listed for years before being sold. And money that exceeded the tax bill could have been sent to the state treasury for heirs to claim.




Resources for locating unclaimed assets
There are a number of places to check for “missing” money:

• Kentucky Treasury: (800) 465-4722 or go online to www.kytreasury.com.
• IRS: (800) 829-1040 or go online to www.irs.ustreas.gov. Nationally, about $200 million in tax refunds and advance child-credit payments went undelivered last summer.
• Social Security Administration: (800) 772-1213 or go online to www.ssa.gov; is holding uncashed checks worth more than $100 million.
• Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: go online to www.pbgc.gov/search to see if you’re owed any of the $80 million nationally of unclaimed money from PBGC-insured defined pension plans that ended.
Missingmoney.com will link you to other states’ Web sites or provide contact information.

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