Locating assets of a deceased person’s estate can sometimes be a problem for the estate trustee. If you are searching for forgotten money on deposit at a Canadian Bank it is very easy to search online at the Bank of Canada website on older accounts, or to contact the bank directly. In 2016, the Bank of Canada paid out $15 million and holds a total of $678 million of unclaimed accounts.
Federal legislation applies to banks under our constitution. Provincial legislation applies to real property, credit unions, and many businesses. In British Columbia you can search online for “unclaimed money” sitting in a dormant account not only from banks but also other business organizations and government.
Since July 2000, the British Columbia Unclaimed Property Act provides the statutory framework for the regulation of unclaimed property in BC. The purpose of the legislation is to unite owners with their unclaimed property held by government and non-government holders. Last year $5.6 million dollars of unclaimed property was received of which $1,217,965 was returned to claimants as the rightful owners instead of the British Columbia government taking it.
Alberta and Quebec are the only other provinces that also have some systems in place to assist those searching for forgotten dollars and property. Every state in the U.S. has some system in place making it easy to search for assets there. Canadians are more frequently purchasing property or maintaining accounts in other countries, and these online systems make it easier to search for assets involving international inheritance.
Other provinces, like Ontario, have no such legislation in force and if the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee does not locate the beneficiaries on unclaimed estates then the money will be transferred to the provincial government by way of “escheat”. There is no easy way to search Ontario government records for inheritance assets. In announcing budget objectives for the 2012 Ontario Budget, provincial officials indicated the Ontario government would establish a program to reunite owners with unclaimed intangible property (things like amounts due under an insurance policy and interests recognized by such instruments as share certificates and bonds) and for the government of Ontario to hold such property for the benefit of Ontarians unless and until the property is claimed. There have been public consultations but no legislation is in force yet.
Similarly, most provinces do not have a system in place to search for forgotten money in credit unions. Advances in technology should make it just as easy for consumers to search for a forgotten asset like a credit union account as it is to search for a forgotten bank account. The long term trend is towards reuniting people with the money and property they are entitled to, instead of government or business keeping it. The British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society states their objective as, “Reuniting forgotten dollars with their rightful owners.” They are truly a Canadian leader in this area and have set the benchmark for other provinces like Ontario!