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W.Va. state treasurer touts state's unclaimed property program

John D. Perdue visits Shepherdstown to promote Smart 529 College Savings Plan

January 07, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Mary Via of Charles Town received a check Friday from the state's unclaimed property program — money that had been tucked away for years in accounts belonging to Via's late mother.

 Via received the check for an undisclosed amount from State Treasurer John D. Perdue at a brief ceremony at Shepherd University. He was in town to promote the state's Smart 529 College Savings Plan, a tax-break program that encourages residents to save for college.

 Perdue said Friday that he will run for governor this year or in 2012, whenever a decision to hold a special election is made, to replace Joe Manchin who resigned as governor in November after appointing himself to succeed the late Robert C. Byrd in the U.S. Senate.

 Perdue, who has been treasurer since 1996, said in the last 10 years his office has returned more than $100 million in unclaimed funds.

 It's money that citizens, many of them seniors, forgot about, set aside or tried to hide from heirs and others in secret bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, certificates of deposit or insurance policies, he said.

"Sometimes they cross the border and put money in accounts in neighboring states, but it all comes back to West Virginia," he said. "We have reciprocal agreements."

 Money in idle accounts is transferred to the state after five years.  

 Perdue said his office returned more than $437,000 to unclaimed property owners in the Eastern Panhandle in the last year.

 About $80 million still remains unclaimed in the state's fund, he said.

 The task of finding rightful owners has become more efficient in recent years through technology, he said. His office does "extensive research" to determine the rightful owners of the money, he said.

 Via is a former executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.

 She said she has worked with unclaimed property divisions in other states, but West Virginia's is more accessible, and the staff more helpful, she said.

 Via plans to use some of it for college tuition for her grandchildren, she said.

 For more information on the state's unclaimed property program log on to www.wvtreasury.com 

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