As careful as most people want to be with their money, there are occasions when money in the form of a cheque, savings account, GIC, money order, etc. could be forgotten. These funds may have been held at a Canadian bank but due to a variety of reasons such as illness, death, or simply, lack of proper organization, they could end up in the unclaimed pool.
Banks are required to notify the owner/client in writing after 2, 5, and 9 years of inactivity but despite such efforts, there are many accounts/instruments that go unclaimed. This post will look at how to check for and claim such funds, if applicable.
What is an Unclaimed Balance?
An unclaimed balance is a Canadian-dollar amount that is issued by or held at a Canadian bank or trust company. This balance could be in the form of a chequing account, savings account, money order, bank draft, certified cheque, GIC, etc. When a certain account is not active or the instrument in question not cashed for a period of 10 years, then the bank or company related to the account/instrument transfers the funds to the Bank of Canada, which acts as a custodian until the rightful owner comes to claim it within a certain time frame (see below for exact holding period).
However, there are certain accounts and instruments that do not qualify for an unclaimed balance. They include RRSP accounts, life insurance policies, accounts in non-Canadian currencies (including USD), credit union accounts, and safety deposit boxes.
How to Check for and Claim an Unclaimed Balance
To check. Please visit the link below, enter the name you think could have an unclaimed balance, and hit the Search button. You can restrict the search to a certain province/territory or search all of them. Please read the search help section on the same page to tailor your search better.
To claim. If the above search shows a relevant result, then the next step would be to file a claim. Depending on the type of claim (i.e., as owner of an account, as heir to the estate of an owner, etc.), a claimant would have to follow the appropriate steps and provide the relevant supporting documentation. Please browse the link below for full details.
Some Other Details about the Process
The claim service is offered free of charge but there may be legal fees that could be incurred as part of the process.
The claims are processed within 30 to 60 days but estate claims could take longer.
After the account/amount is transferred to the Bank of Canada (after 10 years of inactivity), they act as custodian for 30 years to amounts less than $1000 and 100 years to amounts equaling $1000 or higher. Unclaimed balances beyond these respective custody periods are transferred to the Receiver General for Canada (becomes property of Canada).
There are private firms that find owners through the publicly-available database and offer to help the potential claimant in the claim process for a fee. It is worth doing due diligence to determine if the firm can offer something that the claimant cannot do on their own for free with a little time to spare.
Have you used the service offered by the Bank of Canada to claim a balance? If so, was it a smooth process or did you feel that you had to jump through hoops to get your hands on the money?
About the Author: Clark works in Saskatchewan and has been working to build his (DIY) investment portfolio, structured for an early retirement. He loves reading (and using the lessons learned) about personal finance, technology and minimalism. You can read his other articles here.