LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In a down economy who couldn't use a little extra money? How about a lot of extra money? The State of Kentucky is holding onto hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed property and some of it could be yours.
Three decades after Stuart Kunz lost his mother, he found a small windfall she left behind and it was sitting in the hands of the Kentucky Department of the Treasury. The problem was getting it.
"How you get to it?" he said.
Kunz spotted his mother's name on the Treasury's unclaimed property website and discovered a $1,577 annuity sitting in the state's coffers. It's just a sliver of the estimated $300 million to $350 million dollars in unclaimed property currently held by Kentucky.
Kentucky Treasurer Todd Hollenbach opened the states unclaimed property vault to give as a look at what's inside, which includes everything from silver bullion to civil war artifacts and sports memorabilia. Memories left in lock boxes. Money left in bank accounts.
After it's unclaimed by the owners for seven years the property is turned over by the banks for safe keeping, according to state law.
"All this stuff belongs to somebody of their heirs," Hollenbach said.
Giving back all the unclaimed property is a top priority for the Treasurer. He's returned more than $70 million in property to taxpayers since he took office four years ago with the help of a program he started calls "Treasure Finders." The program takes lists of unclaimed property into economically depressed and storm affected counties, then uses local volunteers to set up a phone bank. Then they call people on the unclaimed property list to come down and claim their stuff.
During the "Treasure Finders" program in Adair County this October, one man got back $100,000 from old investments and dividends he didn't know he had. Hollenbach said that's not even the largest amount the Treasury has returned.
"We've had a claim of over half a million dollars," he said.
Most of the amounts are smaller but still a welcome surprise. Adair County resident JD McKinney got back $500.
"We got in line and waited for it and I'm glad," said McKinney.
It wasn't quite that easy for Stuart Kunz who spent months trying to prove his mother was the same person on insurance policy the state was holding.
That's because the insurance agent listed her address as "Cherokee Park" when he sold it to her more than 60 years ago.
"And I kept telling them only squirrels and nuts in Cherokee Park," Kunz said.
Kunz eventually got help to verify his mom's real address, eventually getting the issues ironed out and a $1,577 check from the Treasury, with hundreds of millions more, still waiting to be claimed.
"When the money is sitting there dormant," Hollenbach said, "It's not doing anybody any good."
Except the state of Kentucky. The majority of the unclaimed property held by Kentucky is liquid, meaning cash just sitting in the state's general fund.
The general assembly uses it like a no interest loan that Kentucky pays back as people make claims on their property.
Want to see if any of that unclaimed property is yours? Click here to search the Treasurer's Unclaimed Property website. The next "Treasure Finder" events are scheduled in Knox, Laurel, and Rockcastle Counties before the end of the year.
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