Kevin Hunt: State Holding Unclaimed $599 Million: Look Up Your Share Here

State residents, past or present, have left behind nearly enough unclaimed property to pay for a new XL Center, the proposed downtown minor-league baseball stadium and the $55 refund once promised for every current taxpayer in Connecticut.

The total, about $599 million, includes unclaimed bank accounts, certificates of deposit, payroll checks, stock proceeds, utility deposits, estates, insurance payouts, inheritances, bonds and other proceeds. Seven people have not claimed property worth more $500,000. Thirty-seven others have unclaimed property worth more than $250,000.

The anonymous king, or queen, of unclaimed property received $32.8 million in 2012 held by the state after it sold more than 1.2 million shares of stock issued in that person's name. The certificates were not under a couch cushion, after all: The owner's broker contacted the state Treasury to claim the money.

Property valued at $999 or less now awaits more than a million claimants. Want to play six degrees of unclaimed property? It's a near certainty that you, or someone you know, has unclaimed property held by the state.

Looking for lost money can be more fun than geocaching, more rewarding that ego-surfing and doesn't take much more time than the average selfie. All it takes is a visit to the Treasury's Unclaimed Property website, a database searchable by a person's or business' name.

In the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, from last July 1 through May 31, the state returned $55.6 million to 19,109 claimants. Since Denise L. Nappier became treasurer in 1999, the state has returned almost $485 million to 246,037 people.

"The bottom line," says Nappier, "is this: We've given back more money to more people than ever before in the history of the program."

Yet how many people really know about the CT Big List, or even how the state gets a resident's property?

Jan Manchester of Simsbury emailed The Bottom Line earlier this year after receiving a notice from an investment firm that threatened to transfer her five-figure account to the state as "abandoned property" if she didn't contact the firm in less than three weeks.

She might not have returned a proxy card in recent years, but she never lost track of the account.

"This seems a little harsh for money that I've put away," she says. "As long as it's increasing, I don't have reason to contact them."

Manchester actually satisfied the mandatory-contact requirement by calling shareholder services to find out about the letter. A financial asset is considered unclaimed if there has been no owner contact, usually for at least three years depending on the property type. The property then escheats, or reverts, to the state.

If the state escheated equities held by Manchester, it would have sold them immediately. Long-term unclaimed property could prove costly to the owner. If 1,000 shares of unclaimed Stanley Works stock were cashed in by the state on July 1, 1985, at $29 a share, the claimant today would receive only that $29,000 in proceeds. After two stock splits, but not including dividend reinvestment, the owner would have had 3,000 shares in Stanley Black & Decker worth about $265,000.

If your name shows up on the CT Big List, you can download a claim form at the site or call 800-833-7318 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Processing takes anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Be patient: The treasury's unclaimed property division has 26 in-house employees supplemented by a third-party vendor that answers phones and logs mail.

"Let's keep it in context," says a state treasury official. "We have been delivering into people's hands an average of $4 million each month over the past eight years. And we're not about to compromise the care and due diligence we take in making sure that every dollar goes to the right person. The money we safeguard must go only to rightful owners."

Claudia Sullivan of Vernon says her husband's name showed up on the CT Big List recently linked to what she believed were two "small" small checks related to his former insurance agency.

"We sent them information and now they are making it just about impossible to get what is probably a very small amount of money."

Sullivan says the state asked for proof of the agency's location.

"We sent them stationary and business cards from that time period," she says, "plus they were made aware that the agency was registered with the Connecticut Insurance Department at the same address during that period. Now they want proof beyond what was originally requested, and it is not reasonable in scope."

The treasurer's office, at The Bottom Line's request, reviewed the case and soon had sufficient proof to promise a check within 10 days. It also found a third claim in Sullivan's name and sent a check for $257.26.

There's never a deadline to claim property with the treasurer's office — the oldest of Sullivan's claim dated from 1983.

So check the list today for yourself, your family and relatives, living or deceased. The state is loaded with lost treasures.

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