There Is $177 Million In Unclaimed Funds In BC
BRITISH COLUMBIA – From dormant credit union accounts to unclaimed wages, the BC Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS) currently has more than $177 million in its database of forgotten funds waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners, according to the Society’s most recent financial statements. This includes a $1.9 million estate the legal heirs are unaware of – the largest unclaimed account in the BCUPS’s database.
BCUPS was established in 2003 by the Province of BC and Vancouver Foundation to manage BC’s unclaimed property program and is the legal custodian of unclaimed funds in the province. The Society receives dormant financial assets from provincially regulated organizations and companies in BC that cannot trace the owners of inactive accounts. Last year, BCUPS received $4,070,692 from the courts, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, credit unions, insurance companies, various levels of government, companies, and other organizations to be reunited with the rightful owners.
BCUPS works to put unclaimed money from dormant accounts back in the hands of the legitimate owners. The not-for-profit Society maintains a free online database listing unclaimed accounts that people can search to find out if they have forgotten funds waiting for them. There are no fees to search for or claim forgotten funds through BCUPS. BCUPS also actively searches for the owners of the unclaimed funds turned over to the Society.
In 2021, BCUPS returned $717,209 from inactive accounts to verified claimants who were unaware they had forgotten assets. Most unclaimed accounts in BCUPS’s database amount to between $300 to $500. These unclaimed funds include inactive credit union accounts, as well as unpaid wages, outstanding insurance payments, overpayments to debt collectors, proceeds from courts, pension funds, estates, and real estate deposits.
“People lose track of their funds for a number of reasons,” said Alena Levitz, Executive Director of the BC Unclaimed Property Society. “People tend to move around a lot, change jobs frequently, or simply forget to close an account.”
“BCUPS saw a significant increase in online inquiries for unclaimed property over the last two years from British Columbians financial impacted by the pandemic lockdown,” noted Levitz. “For many cash-strapped British Columbians, being reunited with their unclaimed funds provided welcome financial relief during an unprecedented period of economic adversity. The availability of unclaimed funds also helps support numerous social programs and charities across the province.”
BCUPS allocates a portion of unclaimed funds each year for charitable purposes. Last year, BCUPS transferred $6.24 million to Vancouver Foundation to support community and social programs. This money was used to fund numerous initiatives ranging from arts and culture programs such as Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Theatre Society and the Eastside Culture Crawl Society, to sustainability groups such as the Grizzly Bear Society, Georgia Strait Alliance, and Ecotrust Canada, to social programs such as Victoria Child Abuse & Counselling Centre, The Prince George Sexual Assault Centre, Kelowna Community Resources Society, Kamloops Food Policy Council, and Pacific AIDS Network, among others. British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in North America that has designated a not-for-profit society to administer its unclaimed property program where a portion of inactive funds are set aside each year for philanthropic purposes.
Across Canada, four provinces now have unclaimed property programs in place – Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, and most recently New Brunswick, which launched its unclaimed property program on January 1, 2022.
In BC, an account is deemed to be dormant when a specified period of time has transpired with no activity, from a year to 10 years, depending on the type of account involved. Under the BC Unclaimed Property Act, 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 inactive account holders. Failing that, mandatory holders are required by law to transfer these unclaimed 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 owners can’t be located.
Unclaimed Property in BC By the Numbers
$177 million – Amount of unclaimed funds residing in the BCUPS database transferred from financial institutions, companies and organizations.
$4,070,621 – Amount of unclaimed funds BCUPS received from holders in 2021.
$717,209 – Amount of money returned to verified claimants in 2021.
$110,860,145 – Total amount of money from dormant accounts BCUPS has received since its inception.
$19,230,405 – Approximate amount of money from dormant accounts BCUPS has returned to the rightful owners since its inception.
$1.9 million – Largest dormant account in B.C. waiting to be claimed.
$6.24 Million – Funds from dormant accounts BCUPS transferred to Vancouver Foundation for charitable purposes in 2021.
$54.65 Million – Amount BCUPS has transferred to Vancouver Foundation since its inception
SOURCE BC Unclaimed Property Society