Ohio owes more than $3 billion in unclaimed funds

State lawmakers want to streamline unclaimed funds system

Ohio lawmakers are considering streamlining how unclaimed funds — forgotten utility deposits, uncashed insurance policies, dormant bank accounts, property left in safe deposit boxes — are held for and recovered by tens of thousands of Ohioans.

Currently there is $3 billion in unclaimed funds owed to 12 million account holders but 11 million of those accounts are for less than $100 and more than a half-million accounts are more than 30 years old. Under current rules, even a single $1 qualifies as unclaimed funds.

The unclaimed money or property is typically held by an institution, such as a bank or credit union, or the state.

House Bill 270, pending in the House Finance Committee, would reform the process to make it easier to make a claim, streamline reporting requirements for businesses and fix bureaucratic obstacles, according to state Rep. Derek Merrin, R-Monclova, the bill sponsor.

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The legislation calls for:

— giving the state treasurer authority for investment of unclaimed funds;

— establishing $100 as the minimum value for a property to qualify as an unclaimed fund;

— requiring unclaimed funds be forwarded to the state within one year;

— making it easier to file a claim for less than $5,000 in estates;

— including Ohio tax refunds of more than $100 to be included in the unclaimed funds program.

Currently, unclaimed property must be held forever. Merrin said in his testimony on the bill that he is open to setting a reasonable window for declaring unclaimed property to be abandoned.

Ohioans may check for unclaimed funds online at here or call 877-644-6823. Ohio uses a contractor, MissingMoney.com, that also allows searching unclaimed funds in multiple states.

Checking for unclaimed money is free. Ohioans should beware of websites and companies that tell consumers they’ll receive their missing money after paying fees, ranging from $12 to $30, the state said.

If you do find your name in the unclaimed funds list, you can file a claim to get it back. Proof of ownership, such as copies of identification and address, is required. There is no time limit for claiming funds — they’re held in perpetuity until the rightful owner or his or her heir claims them.

Last year, the state returned $136 million to people who filed nearly 37,000 claims.

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