By John L. Ross/Staff Writer
Excited chatter and giddy chuckles were among the unusual sounds heard Thursday at the Knox County Courthouse.
That’s because representatives from the Kentucky State Treasury Department brought a “treasure chest” of information which could help unclaimed property get to its rightful owners.
Local volunteers aided with the “treasure hunt.”
Todd Hollenbach, state treasurer, began the Treasure Finders Kentucky program after taking office in 2008, saying more than $300 million in unclaimed property currently held by the state needs to get to its rightful owners.
Hollenbach said more than a half million of that is owed to some Knox County residents.
And many of those residents came to the courthouse Thursday.
“We had a steady stream of people all morning,” Hollenbach said. “And then they started flooding in.”
He said probably at least 100 people came in. “We’ve had lots of people,” he said. “We’ve really got some good Christmas cheer going on in here — and with the Christmas tree right outside.”
Several people who came found out there was unclaimed property of which they were unaware. “One woman found out she had about $16,000 owed to her,” Hollenbach said. “We’ve had some nice (claims).”
He said the reactions can vary, but there is one constant. “Most everybody when they find out (there’s unclaimed property) are really shocked, especially when many families really need it right now,” Hollenbach said.
He said he plans to come back soon. “The response from the people in Knox County has been so friendly and appreciative, I’m probably going to make it a priority to come back to this area,” Hollenbach said.
But for those unable to attend Thursday’s event, Hollenbach said that would not be the only chance potential claimants will have for unclaimed property.
Knox County Judge Executive J.M. Hall had said he planned to have someone in the county designated to assist folks in reviewing the state’s database. The designated person would be trained on the state’s system, at no cost to taxpayers.
Hollenbach said as the county lists are finalized, they are added to the kytreasury.com website to be reviewed by potential claimants. He said Whitley and Laurel counties have yet to be complete, but that the state does have approximately half the state’s 120 counties listed.
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.
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.
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 800-465-4722. The treasury department 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.