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Columbia Missourian

Boone County treasurer returns record amount of unclaimed property

By Fred Broschart
January 16, 2014 | 6:05 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Some lucky person in Boone County received an unexpected check for almost $5,400 in 2013.

The Boone County Treasurer reunited a record amount of money with its rightful owners in 2013, according to a news release issued Monday. Despite that, the Boone County treasurer and Missouri state treasurer are still holding more unclaimed money.

Boone County Treasurer Nicole Galloway estimates that she holds about $68,000 in unclaimed funds for as many as 3,000 residents in the county.

The largest single check looking for a rightful owner currently is worth about $1,420, Galloway said. The record for a single check returned to its owner in Boone County is $5,400, set last year.

In Boone County, this unclaimed money is from checks the county has issued that have never been cashed. In many cases, these checks were lost or forgotten about, or a resident might have moved away and not received it. 

The checks Galloway holds are issued by the county for a broad variety of reasons, Galloway said. Often, the checks are for services rendered to the county, court-ordered restitution, or refunds due to residents, she said.

"This is money that's due to them," Galloway said.

The money is held by Galloway for three years, after which it is transferred to the state treasurer's office. Once there, the money is held in perpetuity until someone claims it, said Meghan Lewis, director of communications for the state treasurer.

Statewide, the office holds $810 million in unclaimed property belonging to approximately 4.7 million people, Lewis said. 

Lewis said the state treasurer, Clint Zweifel, estimates that one in 10 Missourians might have unclaimed property. The average amount for each claim is about $300, she said.

Unlike Boone County, where the unclaimed property is only from checks issued by the county, the state keeps a wider variety of things. Besides checks, the property held by the state includes cash from bank accounts, stocks, bonds, contents of safe deposit boxes, insurance claims, past wages and government refunds.

The treasurer does not handle real property such as land, buildings or cars, Lewis said.

Safe deposit box contents are kept until the state runs out of room to store them and then sold at auctions, she said. Proceeds from these auctions are held in perpetuity for the rightful owners.

There are currently 60 claims worth more than $100,000, two of which are in Boone County, Lewis said. There is about $27 million in the mid-Missouri region that includes Boone County, she said.  

The state's record is $6.1 million paid to a woman in the Kansas City area in December 2011, Lewis said.

Boone County is the only county statewide that allows residents to search for unclaimed property online, according to the news release.

The service is real-time — as checks are entered as unclaimed property, the website database is immediately updated, Galloway said.

If a person finds unclaimed property they believe is theirs, they can fill out claim forms online, notarize them (the county offers free notary service) and submit them to her office, Galloway said. After the person's identity and claim to the property are established, they will be issued a check.

The state treasurer's office also maintains a searchable online database, Lewis said.  More than 50 percent of claims can be handled completely online.

Lewis warned that there are many look-alike websites that will try to charge for the information. She said that the service is completely free on legitimate state websites and at county treasurer offices. 

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.