Like lost cats mewing at the pound, millions of dollars land in the Idaho State treasurer’s office each year, just waiting to be claimed by the owners.
The treasurer’s office now holds $111 million in unclaimed paychecks, life insurance policies, traveler’s checks, mutual funds and other kinds of money the state calls unclaimed property.
Money gets lost in a variety of ways, says Audra Fink, unclaimed property program specialist at the treasurer’s office. An employee moves without leaving a forwarding address for the employer to send the final paycheck. The contents of safety-deposit boxes are forgotten. Parts of an estate following a death, such as life insurance policies, mutual funds and bank accounts, sometimes don’t find their way to a beneficiary.
The treasurer’s office posts names of rightful recipients on its website. The office received about 13,500 claims for property last year and wrote checks totaling more than $5 million, Fink says.
It’s an imperfect system that attempts to return lost money to rightful owners. The biggest problem is that many owners of Idaho’s nearly 50,000 businesses don’t know they have a legal responsibility to report unclaimed property, Fink says.
Businesses must submit money for unclaimed paychecks, for example, to the treasury after holding them for one year. Insurance companies holding unclaimed life insurance policies must submit money to the state after five years.
Many businesses don’t submit because they don’t know the Idaho Unclaimed Property unit of the treasurer’s office even exists, Fink says.
“Right now, this is a big thing with insurance companies,” Fink says. “A lot of companies are being audited and found they aren’t correctly turning money over to the state in situations where [they couldn’t locate beneficiaries] who may not have known there was a life insurance policy.”
Businesses filing 10 or more unclaimed-property reports in a year must file with the state online. Fink encourages any businesses wondering how to handle unclaimed property to check the website or call 332-2942.
Zach Kyle: 377-6464 @IDS_zachkyle