Graphic by Lucy Barco

Your guide to finding unclaimed bank balances

By  Nerissa Flores, Catholic Register Special
  • November 6, 2016

So your reclusive Uncle Steve suddenly dies leaving no Will or documentation regarding his finances or estate. You always knew he had some money, but you have gone through his home looking for any documents that will help and have come up empty.

You heard the Bank of Canada takes over any unclaimed bank balances and you wonder: How will you and your relatives get whatever funds Uncle Steve left?

Unfortunately, the issue is not that uncommon. As of December 2015, about 1.7 million unclaimed balances, worth some $626 million, were on the Bank of Canada’s books.

The Bank of Canada (www.bankofcanada.ca) offers answers to questions about this money:

What are unclaimed balances?

An “unclaimed balance” is a Canadian-dollar deposit or negotiable instrument issued or held by a federally regulated bank or trust company that has been transferred to the Bank of Canada after it has been inactive for 10 years. The types of balances come from a variety of sources, including chequing and savings accounts, credit cards, term deposits, GICs and money orders. Not all assets go through the Bank of Canada though. The types of unclaimed balances not held by the Bank include: non-Canadian currencies, registered retirement plans, life insurance policies, stocks and safety deposit boxes.

How can I recover unclaimed balances?

Identify a balance through the Bank of Canada’s unclaimed balances registry, fill out the claim form, respond to requests, and await results. Sounds simple, right? Well… it all depends on what type of claim you are submitting.

What are the types of claims?

1) Individual — A claim to retrieve a balance for which the owner is still living.

2) Estate — A claim to retrieve a balance for which the owner is now deceased.

3) Corporate — A claim to retrieve a balance for which the owner is an organization.

In the case of an estate claim, the process starts with filling out a contact details form at the Bank of Canada website. You will be mailed an estate claim package.

Documentation that will be required includes proof of identity, authorization to act on the estate’s behalf, proof of death and the Will.

Can the Bank of Canada take over any unclaimed monies?

Yes. It there has been no account activity or 10 years, and the owner cannot be contacted, the balance is turned over to the Bank of Canada. It holds unclaimed balances of less than $1,000 for 30 years. Balances over $1,000 are held for 100 years.

If the balance remains unclaimed, funds are transferred to the Receiver General for Canada.

How long does it take to process a claim?

The Bank of Canada responds to claims within 10-12 weeks.

A legal advisor should be consulted for complex claims.

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