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Americans Could Be Rich and not Know It

In a couple of weeks, every newspaper in the state of Arkansas will publish a special section. There will be no stories in it. No photographs. No advertisements. Nothing but page after boring page of names and addresses. You see, October 1 is the start of what Arkansas calls its "Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt," in which the state auditor's office tries to match people with millions of dollars in cash and personal property that is rightfully theirs."Unclaimed property," it's called. It can be an insurance check you received but never cashed and forgot about. Or money and jewels, stocks and bonds from a bank lock box that your parents died without telling you about. The bank and insurance company may not keep these valuables. By law, they must turn them over to the state, which must make a serious effort to find the owner. And so, like other states, Arkansas compiles a list of the last known owners of unclaimed property, and publishes it in the newspaper and online.

Last year, Arkansas took in $13 million in unclaimed cash, plus valuable goods like jewels and guns and government bonds. The state auditor's office puts the money in the bank, and the valuables in two big safes in Little Rock. It even saves some items that have only sentimental value, like World War II medals that are starting to turn up regularly, now that so many veterans of that war are dying. Among the unusual treasures that Arkansas holds in hopes that someone will claim them are two urns of cremated human remains.If you're the owner of any of this property or money -- or that person's rightful heir -- your right to claim it never expires. In Arkansas last year, about 6 million very happy people were re-united with their money or valuables. No lottery anywhere can match those odds.

State of Arkansas site has a section on unclaimed property (many U.S. states have similar arrangements):