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State wants to return $500 million in unclaimed assets

TED WHEELEROregonians have about $500 million in unclaimed assets that state Treasurer Ted Wheeler wants to return to their owners.

The $564 million in assets includes old bank accounts, items left in unclaimed safe deposit boxes and stocks and bonds. The state holds the items for safe keeping. People who believe they have unclaimed assets can use the state database, oregonup.us/upweb/up/up_search.asp, to find and claim the items.

“My message to Oregonians is simple: Come and get it,” Wheeler said. “This money could belong to you. The state is safekeeping these assets on behalf of rightful owners, and I want to see more going to Oregon families that it belongs to.”

The Oregon unclaimed property fund is maintained by the Department of State Lands, which is overseen by the State Land Board. In addition to managing the claims process, the agency also conducts searches for owners of unclaimed funds for amounts higher than $500.

Unclaimed money is held in trust in the Common School Fund, managed by the State Treasury. The fund's interest earnings benefit K-12 public schools through biannual distributions to Oregon school districts.

Under state law, financial institutions and companies must transfer unclaimed assets to the state. Unclaimed property is mostly bank accounts, wages, utility deposits, stocks, bonds and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been abandoned. Recently, the fund has received significant increases in life insurance policy proceeds. Since July 2015, more than $1 million has been paid to beneficiaries of deceased policy holders.

Each year, about twice as much money is declared unclaimed, compared to how much is retrieved. In fiscal year 2015, the state fund grew by $52.2 million and paid out $22.5 million, representing 18,833 claims.

Some unclaimed property is coins and jewelry from safe deposit boxes. The Department of State Lands has scheduled a public auction in Grants Pass May 13 and 14, with the proceeds deposited into the unclaimed property fund on behalf of the owners of those abandoned safe deposit boxes.