Are you a missing person?
A windfall of more than $4 million awaits some 5,000 District residents and former residents who have title to abandoned property at Washington financial institutions and corporations. A list of persons with unclaimed assets of $50 or more will be published Thursday in the District Weekly section of The Washington Post; the list will be repeated one week later.
The assets include savings and checking accounts that have been dormant for 10 years; payroll and other checks not cashed within a year of issuance; stock dividends; utility deposits; insurance payoffs unclaimed for seven years, and contents of safety deposit boxes unclaimed for 10 years.
Persons whose names are on the list should contact the District government at the indicated telephone number. The amount due is not listed. A code beside the name will be translated to identify the institution holding the abandoned property. Claims should be placed with the company before Aug. 30, 1981, and thereafter with the District government.
On Aug. 30, the property will be turned over to the District, which must keep it (or the cash equivalent) in perpetuity for the rightful owner to claim at any time. Although it must keep reserves to handle claims, the District otherwise can use the money as it wishes.
This marks the first time the District has published a master list of abandoned property, although banks and businesses have long placed their own advertisements. The Department of Finance and Revenue is acting under the recently passed Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property law. Previously such assets remained in the custody of banks and businesses, which used the funds for their own purposes. Last year the District ordered them to furnish information about abandoned property by June 20. Anyone failing to file could be fined $100 per day for each violation.
Henceforth the D.C. government will have to use -- though not the permanent ownership -- of the funds abandoned by D.C. residents and residents of the few other states without unclaimed property laws. Maryland and Virginia have similar laws.
Preliminary estimates by the Federal Reserve indicated abandoned property in the District might amount to $25 million. Thus far, some $4 million in cash has been reported. More is expected with late filings this year, and approximately $14 million could show up next year when companies in other parts of the country and other states have reported. An unknown amount of personal property -- primarily the contents of safety deposit boxes -- has also been reported but not yet appraised, according to J. Walter Lund, assistant director of the Department of Finance and Revenue.
Lund said the government will probably auction off the physical objects. As for financial assets such as stocks and bonds, corporations will be authorized to sell them and hand over the net proceeds to the government. If not already done, the District will liquidate them. "We are not going to play the market," said Lund. Should a person several years hence claim stock certificates whose value has appreciated on the open market, he or she will be entitled to receive only the price at which it was sold when turned over to the D.C. government.
The experience in other states shows that only 10 percent to 15 percent of all property is ever claimed.