Unclaimed property refers to accounts at banks, financial institutions, and other organizations where there has been no activity generated or contact with the owner for a period. Typical forms of unclaimed property can include chequing or savings accounts, term deposits, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), bank drafts, traveller’s cheques, money orders, and certified cheques. A number of different organizations (depending on the governing legislation) collect these funds and administer the return to their rightful owner, where possible.
As banks fall under federal jurisdiction, they are required to report unclaimed funds to the Bank of Canada. To search the Bank of Canada database for unclaimed amounts, go to https://ubmswww.bank-banque-canada.ca/en/Property/SearchIndex. At the end of 2018 approximately 2 million unclaimed balances, valued at $816 million, were held by the bank, with $11 million being paid out in the year. Of interest, the oldest balance dates back to 1900.
Three provinces, Alberta, B.C. and Quebec, have unclaimed property legislation. Each province’s rules differ for determining when dormant accounts are “unclaimed”, reporting requirements, due diligence, and enforcement requirements. Information and a search engine for these provinces can be found at:
British Columbia: unclaimedpropertybc.ca
In addition, many states in the U.S. also have databases whereby unclaimed property may be searched. For more information and to be directed to information for particular states, go to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators at https://www.unclaimed.org/.