Most of the time, the amount of money being held by the state is fairly modest.

In a letter on her website, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Carole Keeton Strayhorn writes, “As Texas Comptroller, I am responsible for collecting these abandoned assets. I am committed to returning them to their rightful owners.”

Some examples of unclaimed property are, according to the site

• Dividend, payroll or cashier's checks

• Stocks, mutual fund accounts, bonds

• Utility deposits and other refunds

• Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents

• Insurance proceeds

• Mineral interest or royalty payments

• Court deposits, trust funds, escrow accounts

Texas unclaimed property laws require financial institutions, businesses, and government entities to report personal property they are holding that is considered abandoned or unclaimed.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts is responsible for administering the Texas Unclaimed Property Program. Property is turned over to the Comptroller's office annually when the owner's whereabouts are unknown and the property has been inactive on the books of the reporting company after the appropriate abandonment period.

There are no time limits for claiming the money or property and the state is not the owner of the abandoned property.

Texas does take some measures to let people know they have property waiting for them.

Once a year, the state prepares a newspaper insert listing the names of unclaimed property owners.

Texas State Fair visitors can also search the comptroller’s database at an annual exhibit at the fair.

The state also attempts to contact property owners using their last known addresses.

Finally, the Comptroller’s website provides a fast, easy way to search for abandoned properties.

Visitors to the site can click on a link that will take them to a online search of unclaimed property being held by the state of Texas.

Enter a first and last name and the site searches for matches. Click on a match to get some details about the property, including the dollar value of the abandoned property and the agency that reported the unclaimed property to the state.

A random search of the fairly common name “D. Raney” yielded 44 results in places such as Waxahachie, Arlington and Red Oak.

There is also a link that allows users to search other states’ unclaimed property databases.

After finding their names in the database, property owners are required to file a claim to obtain their money.

The property owner should file an “original property claim.” If the property owner is a child, his or her legal guardian can file a “general claim form.” If the money is owed to a business, an officer or official of that business should file a “business claim form.”

Once the Comptroller’s office receives a claim form and the documentation to go with it, the claim is reviewed. If the Comptroller’s office finds the proof of ownership sufficient, the claimant can expect to receive the money or information on how to claim the property in 30 - 60 days.

If the claimant does not supply sufficient proof, he or she must provide additional information.

The state also participates as a seller in Internet auctions of abandoned property. Each Wednesday, the Comptroller’s website lists new Internet auctions of safe deposit box contents. These 7-day Ebay auctions include items such as coins or jewelry. (No new auctions were set for Dec. 20 or Dec. 27) The auctions are slated to resume Jan. 3.

State government sites are reliable sources for finding out about abandoned assets, but there are other “found money” sites that promise to search for your unclaimed property for a fee. Most of these for-profit web sites do not offer guarantees, nor do they give refunds. In many cases, the information these businesses find is the same one could find for free.

To search the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts database, go to http://www.cpa.state.tx.us/up/;

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