Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
A Jackson man who recently claimed a $6.7 million payout from the state of Wyoming didn’t win a lottery drawing. He’s one of thousands of people in the Cowboy State owed a share of more than $100 million in unclaimed assets.
Although a payout is far from guaranteed, the State Treasurer’s Office is encouraging Wyoming residents to check if they are eligible for a piece of a growing pot of money watched over by the state’s Unclaimed Property Division.
“It only takes a couple of minutes to search our website and then submit a claim if you discover that you are owed any unclaimed property,” Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier says in a Monday press release.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators reports that 1 in 10 Americans have unclaimed property, or about 33 million people.
Not A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme
Meier cautions that people should not look at the program as a get-rich quick opportunity. Many of the more than 900,000 properties in the state’s database are only worth a few pennies. But, the largest is valued at more than $1 million and dozens exceed $100,000.
There is no statute of limitations on claiming the money. Until it’s spoken for, the state earns a small amount of revenue, about $600,000 a year, by saving it. This money is kept separately from the state’s budget.
Robertson said his department issues about 7,000 checks per year, with the average check exceeding $1,080.
“The more people who help out and get the word out the better,” he said.
According to the Treasurer’s office, unclaimed property is turned over when a business, agency or governmental entity owes money, securities or the contents of a safe deposit box, among other items, to someone and cannot locate the owner after a certain amount of time.
The property is turned over to the state of the last known address, if an address is known. If there is no last known address, it’s turned over to the state in which the business was incorporated.
The Unclaimed Property Division has received more than $12 million in unclaimed assets over the past five months.
A Lincoln County man just received $140,000. In 2021, the state turned over $8 million, meaning the supply of unclaimed property overwhelmingly exceeds claims.
Jeff Robertson, administrator of unclaimed property for Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday there are three common scenarios for when people are owed money through various forms of inheritances left by those who have died.
• Unclaimed life insurance policies: These are commonly delivered when insurance companies are unable to locate benefactors to a deceased individual and or the benefactor was unaware the deceased individual had a life insurance plan in the first place. Robertson mentioned a Sweetwater County woman recently receiving a $538,000 check this way.
• Mineral royalties: Earning payouts through oil and gas royalty disbursements is a very common practice in Wyoming. Robertson said there are often people who may not know they were left as heirs to people who received these payouts.
• Closed bank accounts: A similar phenomenon can take place with closed-out bank accounts. When people switch banks, they may forget they had money in an old account and or never officially closed it. Also, banks sometimes struggle tracking down descendants and benefactors of dead people who had money still remaining in bank accounts.
Robertson said money also can be claimed through closed stock accounts, which is what led the Jackson man to claim the $6.7 million he was entitled to. Another scenario, although less common in recent years, are utility deposits paid by former college students.
To see if you’re eligible for funds in Wyoming, visit mycash.wyo.gov.