By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
— There are millions of dollars in Indiana, the rightful owners of which cannot be located. A program through the Indiana Attorney General’s office is trying to get that property into the right hands.
Unclaimed property is any financial asset with no activity by its owner for an extended period of time. This includes: dormant bank accounts; lost or forgotten uncashed checks; stocks or bonds, dividends and bond interest; insurance proceeds; utility refunds; and safe deposit box contents.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the legislature made changes to the Unclaimed Property program, which last year returned $44.9 million to Indiana residents. Through April, the state has returned $22 million.
He said in the past, businesses could retain the property for five years before turning it over to the state for distribution to the rightful owner. That holding period has been reduced to three years.
“Five years was too long,” Zoeller said. “A trail goes cold.”
The legislation includes penalties that can be imposed on a business for not attempting to find the rightful owner.
“They were always supposed to make an effort to find the owner,” he said. “In most cases, the unclaimed property was turned over to the state without any effort to find the rightful owner.”
Zoeller said in most states the treasurer’s office is responsible for finding people who have financial assets that have not been claimed.
He said the Indiana program requires the Attorney General’s office attempt to find the rightful owner of any assets.
The unclaimed funds are often generated when people move without providing a forwarding address or are listed as beneficiaries when a family member or friend dies.
In Central Indiana, from 2010 through 2012, there was $120.8 million available in unclaimed assets belonging to 1.3 million property owners. Most of the amounts are under $100, but there is a small percentage of up to $10,000.
Several times a year, the Attorney General’s office publishes the names of Indiana residents who have unclaimed financial assets through newspaper advertising. The advertising is based on geographical regions of the state.
Indiana law requires almost every business organization and governmental body to report and remit unclaimed property to the Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division.
People can check to see if they have any unclaimed financial assets by going to www.Indianaunclaimed.gov. The search is based on the individual’s name and there is a procedure to receive the funds.
If the financial assets remain unclaimed for five years, the funds go into the state’s general fund.