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You could have unclaimed property sitting at WA Dept. of Revenue

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

If your bills are piling up, try checking the Washington State Department of Revenue’s unclaimed property site — you may find you’re in possession of a windfall.

The Department of Revenue collects funds that people forget to claim, such as credit balance on a utility account, an un-cashed check, or a bank account that people forgot they had.

“Currently we hold over 1.6 billion in unclaimed property,” said Patti Wilson, unclaimed property administrator for the Department of Revenue. “It’s a lot, and each year, we get more reported to us.”

The median claim paid out last year was $400, though Wilson said most people end up with under $100.

Millions of dollars gathering dust in state’s coffers

“It’s available to be claimed forever. It doesn’t ever become the property of the state,” she explained. “It’s not the state’s money; it’s a consumer protection program meant to reunite folks with the money that they maybe didn’t know that they had coming.”

If unclaimed property belonged to someone who died, their heir or heirs are eligible to claim the cash. One claim that went to a deceased woman’s adult children in December was worth nearly $1.5 million.

The contents of safe deposit boxes stored in forgotten bank accounts do eventually get auctioned, but those funds are set aside for the owner or their survivors, if they ever come forward. The contents of these safes can be unusual and sometimes very lucrative.

“This last auction, we had a coin that was from 1795, it was a dollar coin — it went for over $14,000,” Wilson said. “It was a very rare coin.”

On Feb. 1, the first-ever Unclaimed Property Day took place to raise awareness about this storage of cash that many people do not know about. The Department of Revenue noticed web hits about a third higher than normal that day, though it’s too soon yet to tell if a greater number of claims will be paid out as the result of the national day of awareness.

Wilson said that many people who hear about the unclaimed money assume that this doesn’t apply to them. However, they are frequently wrong.

“More often than not, folks do find that they have property or know someone who does have property that’s being held in our database,” Wilson said.

Last year, the department added a million new accounts to the database, so you should check regularly to see if you are owed something.

“If you look and you don’t have something today, you might have something next year,” Wilson said.

For more information, visit the Department of Revenue’s unclaimed property site.

If you moved from another state, you may find you have unclaimed cash there. You can check the national unclaimed property site here.

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