There are billions of dollars of unclaimed money lying dormant and available for recovery; held by the Bank of Canada, companies, and government agencies. Experts estimate the total value to be anywhere between 4 and 7 billion dollars, though it is difficult to tell as Canada, unlike many other highly developed nations, has no comprehensive unclaimed property legislation.
Quebec and Alberta are the only provinces with laws on the books. British Columbia has a voluntary scheme and Ontario is currently in the process of developing its own system.
So, where do these unclaimed funds come from? Experts say it’s not uncommon for people to lose track of their assets, forgetting old bank accounts or paid up life insurance policies. People often move without forwarding their mail for more than a year and many people die without their heirs knowing much about their finances. People don’t know to look, and if the bank cannot find them to inform them then the funds lay dormant. The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy holds funds remitted by bankrupts destined to pay off creditors who could not be found.
Federally regulated banks are required to hand over unclaimed deposit accounts, term deposits & GICs and negotiable items such as drafts, money orders and certified cheques to the central bank after a decade of trying to notify the owner.
Excluded are non-Canadian currency accounts, RRSPs, credit union balances, gold or silver certificates, safety deposit boxes, insurance payments, court payments, stocks and dividends, wages and real estate deposits, most of which are covered by provincial legislation.
Unclaimed accounts remitted to the Bank of Canada reached $532 million as of December 2013 and the number is still growing. 93% of these accounts are worth less than $1000, which is perhaps how they so easily slip through the cracks. Despite the huge amount of unclaimed funds the bank returned only $14 million to owners last year.
The Bank of Canada also holds $391 million (as of March 31 2014) in non-redeemed Canada Savings Bonds and Canada Premium Bonds.
Quebec has about $300 million of unclaimed financial and other assets, while B.C. and Alberta have tens of millions each.
The OSB holds approximately $18 million.
So how do you find your money?