Maureen King admits it was boredom and a commercial that prompted her to check the Treasury’s Unclaimed Property website, but she’s glad she did. King found just over $10,000 that belonged to her husband because of a life insurance plan his late sister had.
King had no idea her sister-in-law had a life insurance policy. “We do have a very large box of papers that we were going through but got sidetracked,” she said.
A night-shift nurse who works with pediatric patients, King often has downtime while patients are sleeping. She decided to check the missing money online database when a commercial for the program came on TV.
When she keyed in her husband’s name, Joseph Bagley, something showed up.
“All it says on that national site is over $100 or under $100,” said King. “I looked at that and said well that could be $100.01.”
But the claim was over $10,000. All Bagley needed was proof of who he was and that he lived at the address on the claim. He was lucky enough to have military papers with his old address.
“We got the check for the amount in about a week,” said King, adding that her husband still didn’t believe it until the check cleared.
The couple was able to use the money to purchase a new stove and pay off a number of small bills. While paying off the bills was important, King is thrilled to have a new stove. Her old one was over 20 years old and falling apart.
In addition, King and Bagley were able to use some of the money to take a short trip to Myrtle Beach.
“Driving back, we looked at each other and said ‘thank you, Mary,’” said King.
Last week, King joined Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo at the Middletown Senior Center to announce that of the $12 million in life insurance proceeds found by a recent audit of insurance companies, $2.3 million has been returned to over 1,100 rightful owners. The Treasury still holds over $9.5 million belonging to 8,000 Rhode Islanders, and is continuing to encourage people to take a few minutes to search the online missing money database.
In total, the Treasury holds more than $275 million in unclaimed property.
“The average Rhode Island family is really struggling to make ends meet,” said Raimondo in a phone interview last week. “The whole point of this program is to get [this money] back to the people.”
Verus Financial came up with the $12 million from life insurance companies during a recent audit ordered by the treasurer. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have used Verus to audit life insurance companies in search of abandoned life insurance policies that belong to residents.
“The people of Rhode Island need that money more than the big insurance companies,” said Raimondo.
During the announcement on March 5, a video sharing King’s story was shown, as well as videos depicting stories from Sharon Finn of Cranston and Lugarde Baris of Pawtucket. Collectively, the three women recovered $67,000 from life insurance policies through Unclaimed Property.
In her video, King explains why this program can benefit so many Rhode Islanders.
“I think it’s great because there are a lot of people who are in desperate need of this money. It could make the difference between a mortgage payment or a meal or a prescription,” she said.
So how is it that so many Rhode Islanders have lost track of life insurance policies and other forms of unclaimed property? According to Raimondo, it is easier than one may think.
“You might not know. If someone dies suddenly and didn’t tell you that you are the beneficiary, you don’t know,” said Raimondo. “It happens more than you think.”
Raimondo explained that the insurance companies try to find beneficiaries, but hold on to the claims when they can’t. The audit helped reveal what was owed to Rhode Islanders.
King and Baris each recovered roughly $10,000, while Finn recovered almost $50,000, all from life insurance policies.
King is very grateful the Treasurer’s office has taken on the task of trying to return this money to Rhode Islanders but does find it annoying the insurance companies don’t find beneficiaries.
Raimondo explained that life insurance claims tend to be on the higher side, but according to her office the average claim for all types of unclaimed property in 2013 was $1,037.
Raimondo said in addition to unclaimed life insurance policies, other types of unclaimed property include stock dividends, security deposits on apartments that were never collected, credit from former cell phone bills or even refunds from utility bills at former properties.
“I think a lot of this happens in transitions,” said Raimondo.
During her time in office, one of the treasurer’s goals was to overhaul the Unclaimed Property program to make it easier and quicker for Rhode Islanders to find and claim their property.
Rhode Islanders can search the database by name online at www.treasury.ri.gov/up.
King said the process was incredibly easy, requiring her to provide some basic information and proof of ID before receiving her property.
“It was wonderful that it came so fast. It was a pleasant surprise,” she said.
King comes from a large family (both of her parents had more than 10 siblings), and has told all of her cousins to check the site. Three have found claims.
“When I find something good, I don’t keep it in. I tell everyone,” said King.
When asked what she would tell people who believe they would never be in the database, King said, “Don’t be silly; it doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Over the past year, Raimondo and members of her staff have been going out in the community to senior centers and farmers markets to talk about unclaimed property. They even bring laptops with them, and help people perform searches right on the spot.
“Almost every time people say ‘No, it won’t be me,’ but someone always finds money,” said Raimondo.