STANFORD — Today may be the day many Lincoln County residents are reunited with money they didn't even know they had.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 24, local volunteers will be helping state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach's office locate the owners of approximately $616,000 worth of unclaimed properties.
"That's a good chunk," Hollenbach said. "Our goal is to reunite the people of this community with as much of that money as we can."
Every year, the state treasury takes in about $30 million to $40 million in unclaimed properties. The properties range from real estate to bank accounts, stocks and bonds to silver bullion, even odder items like guns and stamp collections.
The state is able to track down some of the owners of the property, many of whom don't even know they have property that was often left to them by a relative, but a lot of the stuff just sits, unclaimed, Hollenbach said.
In an effort to change that, Hollenbach has initiated the Treasure Finders program, which works with local officials and citizens in Kentucky counties to find people the state has been unable to locate.
"When I came into office five years ago … we recognized that the traditional way of returning money to people was not obtaining the results that we hoped to achieve," Hollenbach said. "It was up to you to take the initiative to find out if you or a loved one might have a claim to make and then initiate the process yourself of trying to get the money back. We wanted to find a proactive way to do it."
Volunteers will gather at the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Office Jan. 24 to review a list from Hollenbach's office of all the Lincoln County names that have an unclaimed property.
The volunteers will have all the information they need to identify potential recipients, but no one gets to find out the amount of the claim except the person entitled to it, Hollenbach said.
Once people have been notified they have an unclaimed property and proven their identities, the treasury office will let them know the amount of the claims, have them fill out some paperwork and set them on the path to claiming it.
Using local brainpower is extremely helpful because finding the people who have unclaimed properties can be difficult for government officials sitting in Frankfort, Hollenbach said.
"If your local banker or insurance agent or whoever it was that turned the property over to us in the first place couldn't find, the chances that we can find you out of Frankfort are pretty slim," he said.
Hollenbach said even when someone is located, trying to call people and tell them they have free money waiting for them is tricky.
"What they hear on the other line is, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' They're not so sure they're willing to accept that," he said. "When the person on the other end of the line is someone they know from the community … people are much more willing to accept."
Hollenbach said his program has been wildly successful. So far, he's returned $72 million of unclaimed property to Kentucky residents — beating the previous record for money returned by a treasurer by more than $23 million.
Before his current term ends, Hollenbach wants to break the $100 million mark.
"It's been very effective and when I say it's been very effective, I'm not just blowing smoke," he said.
SO YOU KNOW
If you want to check the treasury's database of unclaimed properties to see if you have any claims, visit www.kytreasury.com. Alternatively, you can call the state treasury at (800) 465-4722.