A recent report by the Chattanooga Times announced that millions of dollars in Georgia lottery winnings go unclaimed in Georgia and Tennessee. Lottery officials say this is mostly due to people that buy lottery tickets while passing-through and either forget to check if they’ve won or not.
According to another news report though, a larger amount of Georgia unclaimed money is in the hands of the state’s Treasury Department. Hundreds of millions of dollars in forgotten funds are held by the state government and most Georgians are unaware of its existence. Catherine Westbrook, an elderly resident of the state was very aware though and became frustrated when she tried getting a $1200 check from an old life-insurance policy. “When I didn’t get it for two or three weeks, then I called and they would say, ‘No, the check wasn’t written, hasn’t been written’ — that’s all they would tell me.” said Westbrook who adds after getting the check 5 months after: “I don’t know why they take so long to write a check.”
Georgia’s Unclaimed Property Law or escheat law which originates from feudal laws in England require abandoned and forgotten assets such as bank accounts, income tax refunds, uncashed checks, uncollected wages, insurance premium overpayments, gift certificates, cash dividends on stocks and mineral deposits, and others to be turned-over to the hands of the state after a specified ‘dormancy period’. This period for Georgia is 5 years and less for other financial assets. “Dormant funds are remitted to the State of Georgia. Demand deposit accounts are deemed to be dormant after 12 months and time and savings accounts are deemed to be dormant after a period of five years without activity”, according to an official statement from Georgia’s State Treasury. In a press release from the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Unclaimed Property Unit, “The time that must elapse for property to be determined “abandoned” and turned over to the state varies depending on the type of property. For example, unclaimed wages and company liquidation proceeds must be turned over to the state after one year. The vast majority of unclaimed property must be turned over to the state five years after the last contact with the rightful owner. Time frames for other types of property are: safe deposit box contents must be forwarded to the state two years after the box was opened by the holding financial institution; money orders seven years after the issue date; and traveler’s checks 15 years from the issue date.”
The Georgia Revenue Commissioner has since tried to make some improvements with regards to the state department that handles missing money in Georgia, like replacing an old automated call center system with operators who can check the status of claims immediately. According to Tim Shields, a manager with the revenue department, “From the time the claim form comes in the door, if we have everything we need, within 8 to 10 weeks, that person’s going to receive a check,”.
Greg Daugherty, Executive Editor of Consumer Reports, said “When I entered my own information, I didn’t find anything belonging to me, but I did find some money belonging to a great aunt of mine who has since died, and would have left it to me.” Greg isn’t alone, which is why enlisting the help of an unclaimed money expert is of the utmost importance.