By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Looking for a chance to give money away without tapping into your own finances?
Then come down to the Knox County Courthouse Dec. 6 and sign up to volunteer.
Just what are you volunteering to do?
Those signing up will be able to help get unclaimed property into the hands of its rightful owners.
According to Kentucky State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, there is more than $300 million in the state’s coffers waiting to be claimed.
Hollenbach said the traditional route of searching for claimants to this property was “a passive approach.” He said the previous administration’s eight-year run brought $48.5 million of unclaimed property to the hands of owners or heirs.
However, since Hollenbach took the seat in 2008, he felt the Commonwealth needed to take more of a “proactive” approach in finding claimants.
That’s how the Treasure Finders Kentucky program was born.
This program is designed as a collaborative effort between the state, locally-elected officials and much-needed volunteers to help expedite the process of locating claimants to unclaimed property.
Unclaimed property includes personal property or financial assets such as abandoned saving and checking accounts, disbursement checks which have yet to be cashed or even items which have been either willed or discovered after the owner had deceased.
According to Hollenbach, in the first four years of this program’s implementation, “we’ve returned over $70 million to people in Kentucky.
“That’s the power of going local.”
However, there are still millions waiting to be claimed — including more than a half million owed to Knox County residents.
And that’s where volunteers will come into play. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Knox County Courthouse, people may come to review the list of thousands of people and either find someone they know or themselves.
“(This) allows local folks to help locate folks in their communities,” Hollenbach said. “The chance we (at the state level) could find (claimants) were slim to none.”
When the office comes on Dec. 6, they’ll have a computer database with them to help coordinate the effort.
“You’d be amazed when the volunteers start reviewing the lists,” according to Hollenbach. “The hit rate we get is phenomenal.”
While he said some claims are very large, “most aren’t. The average amount is in the $200 range.”
He explained when these properties become labelled “unclaimed,” the monies go into Kentucky’s general fund, labelled as “contingent liabilities.” This means the state can use the money as it sees fit, with the knowledge that if a claimant comes forward, that money will be returned to them.
“We know we have to pay it back,” Hollenbach said.
Some of the unclaimed properties include a funeral urn with ashes, stamp collections, gun collections, a set of false teeth and various military medals.
Hollenbach wants people to know this is not a scam. He said when the government calls, most people figure they owe money for back taxes or something like that.
“(I) can’t blame people for being cynical,” he said. “But this is not a scam. (We want) to reunite people with their property.”
If interested people looking to see the listing can’t get there on Dec. 6, Hollenbach says don’t worry. “We’ll train whoever (Judge Executive J.M. Hall) designates,” he said. “We’re not a ‘one-hit wonder.’”
There is no additional cost to taxpayers, he added.
According to the www.treasury.ky.gov website, eligible claimants will be helped through the identification process by Unclaimed Property Staff, and successful claims are usually processed in eight to 12 weeks.
For more information or to review the list, visit kytreasury.com or call 1-800-465-4722. Whitley County and Laurel County are listed on the site, however, there is no detailed listing as of yet. According to the website, those lists are still in process to be added.
The treasury does require evidence to claim property. That could include birth or death certificates, proof of residency or evidence of a business relationship with the reporting company. All claims vary and the Unclaimed Property Division staff will determine case by case the evidence needed to process the claim.