INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Each year, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General receives millions of dollars’ worth of unclaimed property. But what many people do not realize is that it’s not just wages or insurance policies, there are valuables and other odds-and-ends recovered as well.
“We receive some basic common stuff every year, with coins and marriage certificates and things like that, that are thrown into a safe keeping box,” said Lindsey Mayes, Director of the Unclaimed Property, “occasionally we open one and we’re surprised ourselves even after doing this many years.”
According to state law, property is considered “unclaimed” when the business or financial institution holding it is unable to contact the owner.
Twice a year, in May and November, those institutions are required to hand that property over to the state office of the attorney general.
Right now, Indiana has a total of $463.5 million worth of unclaimed property.
It comes from accounts, checks, court deposits, insurance payouts, mineral interests, safe deposit boxes, securities, trusts, utilities and unclaimed wages.
“Thing that people would certainly say “I can’t believe someone would forget that” a couple years ago we actually were doing our inventory process and we opened up $90,000 worth of gold–so that’s something that we worked very hard to reconnect that with the owner immediately and we were able to get it back to him like that” said Mayes.
Like many Hoosier’s whose property ends up in the Unclaimed Division, payments on the storage box holding the gold, ceased. Oftentimes, Mayes says people forget their accounts are tied to safe deposit boxes and they never retrieve what’s inside when their accounts close.
Physical property recovered from security boxes are referred to as “tangibles.” Some are mundane, but others hold sentimental and historic value.
Mayes says the department auctions off the tangibles after six months of possession, however, if the property holds historic value they hold onto it indefinitely.
Right now, the Unclaimed Property Division is holding onto a pile of correspondence sent by a soldier station in the Pacific during World War II.
“Most of them dated in 1944, as well as some publications from his time overseas and we have some Japanese currency and then just to kind of set the tone, his family saved all of this in a cigar box and then threw it into a safe keeping box,” Mayes said they have been unable to identify the signatures and the man who penned the letters, but they will hold onto it until someone comes forward to claim it.
The office is also working to reunite a flag draped over a soldier’s casket with the deceased’s family. They’ve recovered and held onto war medals, photos and other memorabilia considered historically significant even if they cannot trace the owner.
The names of all unclaimed property owners that can and have been identified can be found at http://www.indianaunclaimed.gov.
Unclaimed property is generally held by the state for 25 years. It’s during that time period that individuals can search for property by their name, maiden name, previous married names and the names of deceased family members. After 25 years, the property becomes the property of the state.