Tag: Unclaimed Assets
Thousands of individuals have unclaimed funds waiting for them in inactive credit union accounts, as well as unpaid wages, overpayments to debt collectors, proceeds from courts, pension funds, estates and real estate deposits in British Columbia. The British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS), whose mission is to put unclaimed money back in the hands of rightful owners, returned $1,035,932 last year in forgotten funds.
BCUPS holds unclaimed property as the custodian for rightful owners. The Society maintains a free online database where people can search to see if they have any unclaimed money waiting for them. Individuals can claim the funds by completing a verification process. There is no limitation period to claim funds and no cost for BCUPS’s services. BCUPS also works with companies and organizations to help get dormant assets off their books. In 2020, BCUPS received $4,858,925 in unclaimed funds from the courts, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, credit unions, insurance companies, various levels of government, companies in liquidation, among other organizations.
Technically, an account is deemed 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 BC 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.
British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America that has set up a not-for-profit society to administer its unclaimed property program where a portion of funds are transferred to charity.
Unclaimed Property in British Columbia by the Numbers:
$148,933,709 – Total amount of money sitting in dormant accounts waiting to be claimed.
$4,858,925 – Amount of unclaimed funds BCUPS received from financial institutions, companies and organizations in 2020.
$1,035,932 – Amount of money returned to verified claimants in 2020.
$106,789,525 – Total amount of money from dormant accounts BCUPS has received since its inception on April 1, 2003.
$18,514,588 – Amount of money from dormant accounts BCUPS has returned to rightful owners since its inception.
$48.4 Million – Funds BCUPS has transferred to Vancouver Foundation for charitable purposes since its inception.
$1.01 Million – Largest amount claimed. An outstanding estate claimed in July 2019.
$1.9 Million – Largest dormant account in BC waiting to be claimed.
The above information was taken from the British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS) website.
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The use of technology is permeating the practice of law at a faster pace as a result of the pandemic, as with every other aspect of our lives. However, some areas of law remain unchanged.
Other than in British Columbia, there is still no system that provides the public with easily accessible information about unclaimed property in Canada. For example, it is difficult to locate accounts in provincially regulated financial institutions like credit unions left by a deceased individual if you do not know where the deceased left the account. This is in contrast with the federally regulated Bank of Canada searchable website for banks.
In England and Wales, the list of unclaimed estates with missing heirs is now posted daily on a searchable website. Probate genealogists and individuals can search the list on the bona vacantia page of gove.uk.
In Scotland, the list provides additional information like the value of the estate, or the status of the administration of the estate, which can be found on the website: Queen’s & Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer.
Beneficiaries and heirs in the United Kingdom have the ability to search online for inheritance assets that they are legally entitled to receive and which are being held in trust for them.
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For more information on this topic please see some of our other blogs:
A wave of changes in how wills can be signed is sweeping over the legal profession with the force of a tsunami in the last month. While there is still momentum for change, why not include other areas of estate law like an online mechanism to search for unclaimed estate assets. Now is the time to do it.
In the United Kingdom the government posts a weekly list of estates with unclaimed property in those cases where the responsible local authorities were unable to find the legal heirs of estates. It is known as the “Bono Vacantia “ list, and it also provides instructions on making claims where someone has died and not left a will, or where family could not be located.
This publicly available list works well and is similar to the Bank of Canada’s online list of bank accounts with unclaimed balances that can be found here.
In Ontario, there is no publicly available system in place for unclaimed property, or for provincially regulated financial institutions like credit unions, or for estates with unknown heirs. There have been attempts in the past, but, legislation was never put into force. Other provinces, like British Columbia, do have systems in place. In Ontario, if the Office of Public Guardian and Trustee does not locate the beneficiaries of an estate then the money will remain unclaimed. There is no way for a beneficiary to search online for inheritance assets that they might be legally entitled to receive.
The current wave of changes in estate law forced by the pandemic also creates opportunities for further changes – why not do it now?
For more information on unclaimed assets please see:
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