ANNAPOLIS — Using a popular 1970s family sitcom as this year’s theme, Comptroller Peter Franchot has launched the annual unclaimed property campaign aimed at reuniting Marylanders with their money and valuable items.
The 2021 Maryland Unclaimed Property insert hit publications statewide beginning Sunday, May 30, and continues through mid-June. This year, Franchot joins with agency employees to form “The Franchot Bunch,” a spoof of the popular television show “The Brady Bunch” about a large, blended family, according to a news release.
“Unclaimed property is all about reuniting Marylanders with money or belongings that have, for various reasons, ended up in the state’s custody,” Franchot said. “There may be stocks, rings of gold that were once your mother’s, and other items of quality. Being on the list may seem like a fantasy, but matching owners with their rightful property is truly a family effort in our agency.”
This year’s 140-page Unclaimed Property insert lists 69,310 accounts worth more than $59.3 million. Individuals and businesses also can search the online Unclaimed Property database.
The Unclaimed Property accounts include personal property and cash amounts from banks, insurance companies and financial institutions that could not be returned to their owners. Any property that goes unclaimed is eventually handed over to the state.
Financial institutions, insurance companies and corporations are required to notify the Comptroller’s Office of any property that has gone unclaimed or inactive for more than three years. This is usually wages, bank accounts, stocks or dividends, life insurance policies or contents in safe deposit boxes.
In total, the agency has more than 1.1 million accounts with a value of more than $1.9 billion in unclaimed property, the release states.
The comptroller urges anyone who locates their name or that of a family member on the list to contact the office at 410-767-1700 for Central Maryland, toll-free at 1-800-782-7383 or by email at email@example.com to find out how to reclaim their lost property.
In Fiscal Year 2020, the Comptroller’s Office honored 34,746 claims totaling more than $56 million. Since 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $909 million in unclaimed property to its rightful owners.
When the Comptroller’s Office receives physical property that isn’t monetary, the items are appraised and then auctioned off, as required by state law, on eBay. The proceeds are held for the owner in perpetuity. Funds are available to be claimed at any time with no statute of limitations and, in most cases, are not subject to taxes.
Since the eBay program started in July 2006, the Comptroller’s Office has sold 9,702 items, appraised at $2.48 million. The items sold resulted in $2.86 million for owners’ accounts.
The comptroller’s Unclaimed Property division will help Marylanders find the items among the old bank accounts, stocks and bonds, security deposits, jewelry, insurance benefits, collectibles, valuable documents and other contents of safe deposit boxes.
Unclaimed property staff will have tables at several county fairs and other major events, contingent on COVID-19 case counts remaining low. The agency also will rely on social media and traditional media coverage to help publicize the list.
Along with the Unclaimed Property insert, which is published annually as required by law, and in-person outreach, the Comptroller’s Office searches tax records and Motor Vehicle Administration files to try to locate property owners.
To further promote the unclaimed property campaign and reach unique audiences, Franchot has recorded fun videos parodying a pop culture theme and dressing up in costume. Previous themes include “The Matchelor,” “Unclaimed Property Brothers,” “Sherlock Franchot” and “The Most Interesting Man in Maryland.”
The agency employees who comprise “The Franchot Bunch” in this year’s accompanying video were each selected by their division directors for outstanding work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are: Bruce Thompson, Information Technology Division; Robert Rosati, Administration and Finance Division; Lakeisha Sorrell, Field Enforcement Bureau; Lavoris Lipscomb, Revenue Administration Division; Lori Couch, Taxpayer Services Division; Monica Wheatley, General Accounting Division; and Samuel Sydnor, Compliance Division.
Franchot extends his gratitude and appreciation to each of them, as well as to vocalists Grace Feldmann and Samone Jett, both of Annapolis.