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Inefficiency In Unclaimed Property

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Many Hoosiers discovered that luck isn’t the only way to find unexpected funds. If you’ve been eyeing that brand new grill for your back porch, maybe it’s time you check in with the state government. After all, there’s nothing to lose but unclaimed money.

The Indy Star posted a story about unclaimed property in Indiana. According to state records, Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office has more than $350 million in unclaimed assets.

“Almost all of this is cash, and there’s a lot of it,” [Zoeller] said. “The largest amounts are in stocks and securities, but there’s a lot of insurance companies that owe people money, too.”

To bring public awareness, Zoeller traveled statewide encouraging Indiana residents to not only look up their own names, but the names of further family, friends, and neighbors. Claims range in value, but for one family at least, $18,000 in retirement benefits is simply waiting to be retrieved. Who needs the lottery when you’ve got money with your name on it?

Before we go much further, it’s valuable to define what all constitutes unclaimed property.

Any financial asset with no activity by its owner for an extended period of time is considered unclaimed property. This includes unclaimed wages or commissions; savings and checking accounts; stock dividends; insurance proceeds; underlying shares; customer deposits or overpayments; certificates of deposit; credit balances; refunds; money orders; and safe deposit box contents.

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© Cristiano Betta

That certainly sounds like a list of things you would want to know about! Ironically, as excited as Hoosiers may have been with this discovery, our lack of awareness represented a serious disservice. After all, who knows how long the money had been sitting around? Given the economic hardships that have fallen upon many individuals, this cash may have come in handy weeks, months, or even years ago. The more important question, though, is why does the state need citizens to request their unclaimed funds?

This isn’t something that’s unique to Indiana. There are entire websites with lists of unclaimed property laws. The laws vary from state to state, but most of them allow you to search by either your name or social security number and it can be handled online. A few states require written requests, but those are in the minority.

The current system may appear sufficient—just type in your name and see what you are owed. But why does the Attorney General need to ask Hoosiers to visit a website when the state is practically in constant contact with citizens? Every time you receive a tax bill, update your drivers license, register to vote, pay a traffic ticket, submit a change of address form, or receive any official correspondence the government has to look up your name. Why can’t these systems automatically include a notice about unclaimed funds?

Although such a fix might be easy to describe, business consultants know change  is tough to embrace. We cannot improve the experience by simply describing a better outcome but instead by understanding the process. There’s a reason that people have to search for themselves, and when the reasoning behind that initial decision is understood, then we can move forward with how to solve the problem. After all, until you put a problem in perspective, it’s almost impossible to come up with the best solution.

Your business operation might not be as big as the Indiana unclaimed property division, but you likely have business processes that don’t leverage what you already do. AccelaWork helps organizations improve business process by empowering your stakeholders. We may not be the lottery, but we’ll help you hit the jackpot. Contact our our Indianapolis consultants today to learn more about how we can help you cash in on productivity in your office.

Not sure if you have unclaimed assets in Indiana? Visit www.indianaunclaimed.com or call the Unclaimed Property Division toll-free 24 hours a day at (866) 462-5246 (IN-CLAIM).

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