Billions in unclaimed property awaits reunion with rightful owners

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Billions in unclaimed property awaits reunion with rightful owners
You pay your taxes, your fees, your bills -- but chances are you have some money coming to you instead.

You pay your taxes, your fees, your bills -- but chances are you have some money coming to you instead.

"My office is holding on to $8 billion dollars in property that belongs to 36 million individuals and organizations,'' state Controller Betty Yee told ABC7.

It's true. The state of California is holding billions in cash and valuables that have gone unclaimed - and some of it likely belongs to you or someone you know.

LINK: Find out if you have unclaimed money waiting for you

It includes valuables held in a vault in Sacramento, like gold coins, savings bonds, diamonds, rare baseball cards, military awards and historic documents.

But most of that $8 billion is in cash - in the form of forgotten bank accounts, stock dividends, uncashed checks, and inheritances. It also includes $300 million worth of life insurance benefits.

Those benefits were never claimed, typically because heirs didn't know their loved ones had taken out policies in their names. In the past, life insurance companies were keeping those benefits, Yee tells us.

Then California and other states went after that money. Now, insurance companies are turning over unclaimed benefits over to the state, which runs a database to help get cash and valuables back in the rightful owners' hands.

An ABC7 employee just found a life insurance policy worth $8,600 she never knew her late mother left behind.

"I knew she had some policies, but we didn't know about this one until recently,'' Emily Montgomery said.

Yee encourages everyone to check the state's unclaimed property database to find items belonging to them. On average, there is nearly one item for every man, woman, and child in California.

"We make it easy,'' Yee said. "We ask that everyone check regularly. This is property people just forget."

Yee said her office returns $600,000 worth of properties to owners every day.

Visitors to a 7 On Your Side event in Alameda earlier this month got help from Michael Finney's team to find unclaimed treasures. More than half of those who looked found something belonging to them - some large - and some small.

"Wow, potentially $40 from Golden Credit Union,'' Alameda resident Sean Gabriel said. "Maybe it's there ... that'll get us a couple of tacos.''

Janet Carp found $1.56 bank refund. "Hey, it's something,'' she said.

Another visitor found a $5.38 refund from TV Guide. "Oh, you're rich," joked her friend.

Daille Reyes of Alameda found $322, due to her husband as a tuition refund from the California Culinary Academy.

Gary Sjobert found $135 worth of stock dividends, and Robert Ward found $249 in dividends from Texas Instruments.

But, the biggest haul of the day went to Stuart Ng, who found $108 from his dad's bank account, plus 112 shares of a Dreyfus fund, worth about $1,000.

On Wednesday, May 24, we'll host a special Facebook Live event at 3:30 p.m. on the ABC7 News Facebook page. Join the conversation, and I'll look up your name live to see if you have money coming to you. We'll also show you how you can hunt for yourself.