Department of Revenue site pairs unclaimed property with owners

The Department of Revenue today announced the Unclaimed Property Web site and a new online claims processing system to help speed the return of unclaimed property to rightful owners. No other state has such a comprehensive online claims system.
Businesses and individuals already can search for missing property online, but claim forms have to be printed out and mailed in. This involves considerable paperwork, and claimants often submit claims without adequate documentation, delaying the return of uncashed checks, utility deposits, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and even the contents of safe deposit boxes.

The new system lets people submit claims and documentation online and steps the users through the process to help ensure all necessary paperwork is included.

“This system will help reunite people with their unclaimed property faster and more efficiently,” said Cindi Holmstrom, director of the Department of Revenue.

The online database contains more than 1.4 million names, and visitors have a one-in-seven chance of finding unclaimed property owned by themselves, friends, or relatives. The Department returned a record $26.1 million to nearly 53,000 claimants in Fiscal Year 2005, and is on track to beat that record during Fiscal Year 2006.

Revenue has acted as a central repository for lost property since the Unclaimed Property Law was first enacted in 1955. Since then, more than $500 million in unclaimed property has accumulated, not counting more than $177 million that the Department has returned to rightful owners, 60 percent of that in the last five years. The unclaimed proceeds are deposited into the general fund and can be claimed by owners or their heirs in perpetuity.

Businesses must turn unclaimed property over to the state if they have held it for the required abandonment period, typically three years, without any contact with the owners.

When the Department receives unclaimed properties, it mails a claim form to the last known address of each person with more than $75 in unclaimed assets. It also employs a finder to track down people with substantial unclaimed property.

Holmstrom said the online claims system is a great example of how the Department is providing innovative services to the citizens of this state. She noted that the Department will start a radio and bus ad campaign April 3.

In addition to searching , or , Washington residents who have lived in other states also should check, operated by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.