Texas is currently holding more than $3 billion in cash and other valuables waiting for their rightful owners to claim. The Texas Comptroller estimates that one in four residents of the State of Texas have unclaimed property. Examples of unclaimed property include dividend, payroll or cashier’s checks; stocks, bonds and mutual fund accounts; utility deposits and other refunds; insurance proceeds; mineral interest or royalty payments; dormant bank accounts; and abandoned safe deposit box contents.
The Texas Comptroller’s office receives unclaimed property as required by law from financial institutions, businesses, and government entities that are holding personal property which is considered abandoned or unclaimed. The unclaimed or abandoned property is turned over to the Comptroller’s office on an annual basis when the property owners’ whereabouts are unknown and the property has been inactive on the books of the reporting company after the necessary abandonment period has expired. It is important to know that the Comptroller’s office acts only as a custodian of the unclaimed property, and holds the property in a trust until such time as it can be claimed. Texas does not take legal ownership of the unclaimed property, so there is no time limit for filing a claim.
Over the past several years, the Texas Comptroller has travelled around the state to bring public attention to the billions in unclaimed property being held by the State of Texas. The unclaimed property though is not just limited to individual Texans, “Cities, counties and school districts face challenges in this tough economy,” the Comptroller said in 2010. “Our office has expanded its efforts to help government entities reclaim property, and … to get this money back and put it to work for the taxpayers.” In 2012 the Comptroller’s office returned $159 million in unclaimed property. In fact the Comptroller’s office hit a milestone this year. Since 2007 the Comptroller’s office in a six and a half years have responded to 1.1 million claims totaling $1 billion dollars returned to Texans over that time period. This is an important milestone because since the unclaimed property program began in 1962 through 2007 the Comptroller’s office retuned $900.8 million worth of unclaimed property.
In order to make the process of claiming your property easier the Comptroller’s office has outlined a number of new features and expanded their outreach. They include:
• An automated-review process for claims up to $5,000 that matches information in online claim forms to data in the unclaimed property system in order to expedite those claims.
• Access to a dynamic public records database to help efficiently verify claimants and speed up approvals – decreasing the time to pay claims filed by original owners from 45 days to about 20 days.
• Grass roots staff that sets up at events such as expos, the Texas State Fair and events with county treasurers to help Texans find and claim their unclaimed property on the spot.
• Improvements to the Unclaimed Property website that make it easier for claimants to identify and submit a claim for property.
• Annual notification letters to owners of certain types of property valued $100 or more that was reported to the state in the preceding year.
• Brochures in libraries promoting the unclaimed property program website phone number.
To find out if you are one of the millions of Texas residents with unclaimed property, I strongly recommend that you check the unclaimed property list by visiting Texas Unclaimed Property or by calling 1-800-654-FIND (3463).
If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).
– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32
Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part). He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 512-463-0672.