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Updated: 11:12 a.m. Friday, March 6, 2009 | Posted: 4:20 p.m. Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lost Treasure May Be Yours

$1.2 Billion Waiting To Be Found

By Jim Otte

CELINA, Ohio —

When Nancy Toms moved from her partment of 25 years into her new house, she never imagined that she would lose track of an investment account.

She was shocked to learn the account had grown to more than $6,700 and was sitting for her in the state of Ohio's Unclaimed Funds program, overseen by the state Commerce Department.

"I can't believe that. I thought maybe it was $500. I can use that," Toms said.

Toms is among thousands of people in the Miami Valley with money in unclaimed funds.

Most it came from forgotten bank accounts, investments or insurance policies. When banks and other businesses cannot locate the rightful owners of money in accounts, the funds are turned over the state for safekeeping.

Currently, the state makes the database of accounts available on its internet site and advertises the names of account holders once a year in local newspapers.

Still, John Wolfe wishes they would do more.

Wolfe recently recently that his deceased parents left behind more than $6,400 that went to unclaimed funds.He plans to apply for the money on behalf of himself and his brother, but he said the state should do more to notify people that money is available.

"I think when they have a list it would not be that difficult or that costly to send out some type of notice and see if the addresses were good," Wolfe said.

According to state records, there is a total of $1.2 billion in the state's Unclaimed Funds Program.

Some of it may never be claimed, while other accounts make their way to the rightful owners in unconventional ways.

An investigation by WHIO-TV found $90,000 left behind in unclaimed funds by a Westerville, Ohio woman with ties to the Miami Valley.

The woman, Alice Bendel, had no relatives, and had willed her entire estate to the Masonic Home in Springfield where she lived the last three years of her life.

The Masonic Home Foundation was unaware that Bendel's money was in unclaimed funds. But once the foundation learned of the money, they began the process of accessing the funds Bendel left behind.

"It is always neat to see the trailing gift that pops up several years later and gives that individual a way to still have an influence and stay involved in an organization that she really cared about," said Tim Strawn, President of the Masonic Home Foundation in Springfield.

Odds are, most people will find money for either themselves or someone they know.

Claiming the money does not cost anything, but when it is sent out, the state retains 5 percent as a holding fee, along with any interest accumulated since the money came into the fund.

Click here to go to the State Unclaimed Funds Search Page.

For a list of local people who have been identified as having money being held in the state's unclaimed funds account, click the following link: Local Unclaimed Funds

jim.otte@whiotv.com

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