Photo by Sue WatsonNellie Smith (left) greets state treasurer Lynn Fitch.
Photo by Sue WatsonFrom left are mayor Kelvin Buck, state treasurer Lynn Fitch and Steve Farese.
Fitch visits hometown
State treasurer Lynn Fitch was in her hometown of Holly Springs last week, with staff members, helping individuals look for any unclaimed property they or their relatives may have in the fund.
Her office has returned $81 million to the people of Mississippi out of its unclaimed property fund since she has been in office (seven years).
The office of the state treasurer is responsible for the administration of the Unclaimed Property Act.
The law requires that “holders” such as banks, credit unions, insurance companies, retail stores, utility companies, and business associations turn over to the office of the state treasurer any assets such as money, cash, checks or stocks that have been abandoned for which there has been no contact for a period of five years.
The Unclaimed Property Division is charged with trying to locate the rightful owners of such assets.
Some of the money, for example, may be a deposit refund from a utility company or phone company. A governmental entity or a business may have unclaimed property in the fund.
For example, residents of Lauderdale County recovered $400,000 from the fund.
Even municipalities and state agencies may have unclaimed property in the fund.
Tony Geiger, director of unclaimed property, said his office has about 10 employees who work to make sure the people of Mississippi find their money.
“As an example, after five years, if a cable company has a deposit that you never got, if they have not found you in five years, state law requires them to turn it over to the state,” Geiger said. “It stops there until the person or their heirs claim it. The state is the custodian and you are the owner and always the owner.”
He said the balance in unclaimed property runs into the millions of dollars.
“When we came into office in 2012, Lynn Fitch said, ‘I want to return the people their money,’” Geiger said.
Another example is a couple who lost their house in a flood. They had willed their house to the Palmer Home for children. Unclaimed property found more than $100,000 for Palmer Home.
No matter the amount, whether it is $1,000 or $200, Geiger said people spend it once they get it and the fund becomes an economic driver in the state.
A person found $200 and was able to buy two tires for their car. The person cried because she was able to buy the much-needed tires.
“It’s spent on the little things you don’t think of,” Geiger said. “We turn it back to the people and they spend it.”
Fitch travels all over the state helping people find their unclaimed property. Geiger said his office is booked up through next year and is available to go to any county or city.
“We look at it as outreach and awareness,” he said.
The state treasurer’s office has about 40 employees.
There were many people who came to the Eddie L. Smith Multi-Purpose Building just to visit with Fitch, who has already said she will be running for attorney general in the 2019 election. She is the daughter of W.O. Fitch, owner of Fitch Farms/Galena Plantation and Fitch Enterprises in Holly Springs.