Alabama Unclaimed Property Division Practices and Statistics
In the state of Alabama, the Unclaimed Property Division has been in operation since 1971. However, the state’s Treasurer Office has only been charged of the program since 1996. Since then, nearly 350,000 citizens have identified and claimed assets due to them from a variety of sources. Inactive property is labeled unclaimed after five years. These types of assets can include uncashed paychecks, refunds, inheritances, money owed by banks, and so forth.
So, why would anyone have unclaimed property? Many people don’t actually realize that they have it. Perhaps they divorced and were never informed of money owed to them. Sometimes people start funds in someone else’s names and never get a chance to tell them. And, of course, some of the money could be an inheritance from a long lost relative. Occasionally, banks lose track of true owners of bonds, which can take a long time to sort out. To date, an estimated one out of ten residents or businesses in this state has unclaimed property.
The role of the Unclaimed Property Division in Alabama is to:
Over $165 million has been successfully paid out to rightful owners and/or heirs to date. In Jefferson County alone, there have been 61,785 claims to date, most of which has gone to the city of Birmingham. The average amount per claim in Birmingham was $1,664.20 in 2008-2009. Despite the active efforts of the Unclaimed Property Division, however there is still $373 million left unpaid in the entire state to date.
Unclaimed Alabama property formerly held in another state is now kept in protective custody. At this point in time, Alabama is doing everything it can to protect assets it obtained from other states that couldn’t be paid to rightful owners. The Department of Treasury’s Unclaimed Property program claims that its mission is to “reunite assets with legal owners” and that it “accepts responsibility” for the division’s actions and services.
Unfortunately, not all politicians in the state are using positive and active practices in returning the unclaimed properties to their rightful owners. Jeremy Sherer, candidate for state treasurer, has recently proposed that the Unclaimed Property Funds be tapped into to cover the state’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program. While the latter is extremely important as well, the decision should be up to the citizens. Many would agree that the state treasury doesn’t OWN the unclaimed property, therefore it’s not up to them on how to spend it.