Thousands of B.C. residents have forgotten funds languishing in credit union accounts, unpaid wages, overpayments to debt collectors, proceeds from courts, pension funds, estates and real estate deposits, says the B.C. Unclaimed Property Society.
There’s an estimated $100 million in forgotten funds waiting to be claimed. Last year, the not-for-profit B.C. Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS), whose mission is to reunite unclaimed money with its rightful owner, returned $922,879 to claimants. This year, approximately $1.2 million in orphaned accounts has been paid out to recipients.
“As a not-for-profit Society, BCUPS holds unclaimed property as the custodian for rightful owners under the Unclaimed Property Act, ” says Alena Levitz, executive director of the B.C. Unclaimed Property Society. “We work with companies looking to get dormant assets off their books, search for and return funds from dormant accounts to the rightful owners.”
BCUPS maintains an online database where people can search if they have any unclaimed money. They can claim the funds by completing a verification process that firmly establishes their identities at rightful owners.
In 2013, BCUPS received $8,460,201 in unclaimed funds from financial institutions, companies, courts, tax offices and the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, representing 18,026 individual unclaimed properties. Thus far in 2014, companies and organizations turned over more than $5 million.
Most unclaimed accounts hold $200 to $300. The single-largest unclaimed property payout by BCUPS was $357,262 made in 2011.
“Accounts become dormant for a number of reasons,” says Levitz. “People move without leaving a forwarding address, neglect to pick up a final paycheque, forget about a security deposit or pass away.”
Technically, an account is deemed to be dormant when a prescribed period of time has transpired with no activity, from a year to 10 years, depending on the type of account involved. Under B.C. law, credit unions, debt collection agencies, real estate agencies, companies in liquidation, municipal and provincial courts and municipalities, which are classified as mandatory holders, are required to make a “reasonable effort” to identify forgotten account holders, before transferring these funds to BCUPS. Other organizations holding trust funds, insurance policies, brokerage accounts and closed pension plans are encouraged to voluntarily transfer their unclaimed property accounts to BCUPS if the rightful owners cannot be located.
The Bank of Canada says “approximately 1.4 million unclaimed balances, worth some $532 million, were on the books” as of December 2013. Canadians outside B.C. may search the unclaimed balances database here.