State Auditor Charlie Daniels is reaching out to over 5,000 Arkansans who may have a surprise in store from his office. Daniels announced last week that the Past Presents program, aimed at reaching Arkansans whose loved ones left behind unpaid life insurance policies. These policies represent over $8.7 million in unclaimed death benefits rightfully belonging to Arkansas citizens.

"A lot of times when someone has unclaimed property they already knew about it and just forgot or misplaced it," Daniels says. "With these beneficiaries, most of them will have no idea the money was there to begin with since it was originally in a family member’s name who may not have told them about it. It’s like a present from the past."

Money owed to Arkansans from unclaimed life insurance policies are now being reported to the state auditor under multi-state examinations of 52 national life insurance companies. The ongoing audits are intended to identify life insurance policy holders who have died, but whose beneficiaries have never been paid.

Previously, life insurance companies held policy proceeds until a beneficiary notified them that the policy owner had died, resulting in many millions of dollars accumulating with the insurance companies instead of being passed on to the beneficiaries.

As part of the Past Presents program, the auditor’s office will send letters and claim forms to every beneficiary that can be located, notifying them of the money they are owed and the process for claiming it. Several thousand policies are listed only in the policy holders’ name, though, which means that Arkansans should pay special attention to the Unclaimed Life Insurance Notice located on the auditor’s website. This notice lists the name of each deceased policy owner and the company that reported the benefits to the state.

In addition to this direct outreach and specialized information for life insurance policies, the office will be posting notices in local newspapers, websites and social media. Anyone can search for their name on the auditor’s website to see if they are listed as a beneficiary or have any other kind of unclaimed property.

"We are talking about money that hardworking folks intended to leave to their family members when they passed on, and our focus with Past Presents is to raise awareness about these policies and give the money back to the family where it rightfully belongs," Daniels said.