You Should Have Your Money, Not the State

Illinois State Treasurer's Office
2 min readOct 21, 2020

October 2020 Treasurer’s Note by Treasurer Michael Frerichs

Unclaimed property might be one of the state’s most misunderstood programs.

Most people I know are convinced they know the exact location of their money and valuables. Yet, the state treasurer’s office safeguards more than $3.5 Billion in misplaced investment accounts, bank safe deposit boxes, and unpaid life insurance policies through its I‑Cash program.

Those are the flashy examples. Other unclaimed property items include a misplaced expense check, a utility refund mailed to the wrong address, or that forgotten paycheck in the haste of going home from college.

I mention these examples because I recently had the honor to return $19,278 to the Geographic Society of Chicago. The gift was from the estate of Hazel Gaunt, a Chicago resident who passed away in 2005. Like many of these stories, Ms. Gaunt’s affinity for the Geographic Society of Chicago was unknown to those near her when she passed away, possibly explaining why this final request languished for 15 years. Also, like many of these stories, enough time has passed that no one really remembers how Ms. Gaunt was introduced to the Geographic Society.

Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs with State Rep. Lindsey LaPointe announcing the return of $19,278 to the Geographic Society of Chicago

Nevertheless, it was an honor to make sure her wish was fulfilled. In fact, by law, the treasurer’s office is legally required to return the property to the rightful owners no matter how long it takes.

“As a non-profit that counts on contributions to make its programs possible, this funding is a tremendous help to the Geographic Society of Chicago,” said GSC President Stephanie Schmidt of HERE Technologies, Inc. “Like so many organizations, GSC has had to pivot to make its programming available during a pandemic, and these resources will go a long way to ensuring that we’re able to continue our important work.”

Ms. Gaunt is not alone. Nor is the Geographic Society of Chicago. In fact, we have returned $1 billion during the past five years. Fortunately, there is something you can do. You can search your name, your business’ name, your not-for-profit’s name, to make sure you have your money, rather than the state of Illinois.

Good luck.

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