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Wasatch Back residents missing out on millions of dollars in unclaimed property

An example of an unclaimed tangible property housed at the Unclaimed Property Division at the Utah State Capitol
Utah State Treasurer
An example of an item housed at the Unclaimed Property Division at the Utah State Capitol.

Utah's state treasurer is safeguarding nearly $5 million in unclaimed property for Summit and Wasatch County residents, and he wants to give it back to its rightful owners.

The state Unclaimed Property Division handles the task of safeguarding unclaimed money and tangible properties and returning it to their rightful owners.

Unclaimed property comes from sources like dormant bank accounts, overpaid medical bills, uncashed checks, safe deposit box contents, and unpaid insurance benefits.

Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks said Summit County has substantially more unclaimed property than Wasatch County.

" We have exactly 25,469 potential claims that represent $4.2 million for Summit County residents." Oaks said, "For Wasatch County, it's not quite $700,000 and about 5,000 lots, or 5,000 potential claims."

Property owners included individuals, non-profits, businesses, school districts, and government entities.

Oaks said federal legislation from the 1950s requires entities, businesses, and agencies to return property that is not theirs. If companies can't find rightful owners, the property goes to the state. He said the lots (the term used for a property) could be monetary and tangible, such as collectibles or personal items.

Unclaimed Property family photo
Unclaimed Property family photo

"Lots are claims or dollars that have been lost with businesses primarily. So, we might have a utility deposit or some bill that you've overpaid," Oaks said, "Or there might be a life insurance policy that you didn't know about, you know, those are all generally dollar denominated."           

Oaks said Utah's treasury department collected $66.7 million in unclaimed property last year. $30.6 million was returned to owners, and the remaining money or tangible property is held indefinitely by the treasury's Unclaimed Property Division.

Oaks said the department uses various tools to find rightful owners. And they try to identify lower-income areas and reach out to community leaders to return the money to the most needed places.

"They have a partnership with Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center. So, they're able to search unclaimed property data by Census Tract, county, Senate District, or House District. You know, there are certain zip codes that are lower income, and we can match data by zip code and try to direct some of our efforts where it can be most impactful."

Oaks said despite the treasury's efforts, $36 million remains in unclaimed property. He recommends everyone check the database at least once a year. He said it could be more difficult when the property belongs to a deceased person, but it's common to have descendants submit claims.

He said those who move often or rent would frequently find unclaimed money belonging to them. He also said it's a good idea to check all the states where you've lived or worked. He mentioned one Utah business collected $5 million after checking Utah's My Cash database.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.