Last year, retired Surrey, B.C. primary school teacher Sue Wallace received a phone call from her son telling her that he noticed her name listed in the online database of the BC Unclaimed Property Society’s website. Intrigued by the possibility that she might have forgotten funds somewhere, she went to the BCUPS’s website to see for herself.
“It was during the COVID lockdown, and I had nothing but time on my hands, so I thought I’d give it a try,” she says.
Sue contacted BCUPS through the website to find out more information about the balance listed in her name. She was asked to provide some supporting documentation to verify her identity and claim, which turned out to be money from an inactive credit union account she forgot to close. She was soon sent a cheque for $150.
“I was thrilled,” she says. “The whole process was seamless.”
Sue Wallace is just one of thousands of British Columbians who have unclaimed money they’re unaware of sitting in dormant accounts. Throughout the province, there’s more than $149 million in unclaimed funds available to be claimed by the rightful owners. This includes an outstanding $1.9 million estate the legal heirs are unaware of – the largest unclaimed account in the BCUPS's database.
The not-for-profit BC Unclaimed Property Society, which was established in 2003 by the Province of British Columbia and Vancouver Foundation, serves as a "lost and found" for forgotten funds in the province. The Society's mission is to put unclaimed money from dormant accounts back in the hands of the rightful owners. BCUPS also works with companies and organizations to help get dormant assets off their books.
In 2020, BCUPS returned $1,035,932 from dormant accounts to verified claimants who were unaware they had forgotten assets. The Society received $4,858,925 last year in unclaimed funds from the courts, the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia, credit unions, insurance companies, various levels of government, and companies in liquidation to be reunited with the rightful owners.
BCUPS maintains a free online database where people can search to see if they have any forgotten money waiting for them. If someone finds a dormant account in their name, they can claim the funds by completing a simple verification process that firmly establishes their identity as the rightful owner. There are no costs for BCUPS's services, and no time limit imposed to claim forgotten funds.
Dormant accounts administered by BCUPS apply only to provincially regulated financial institutions, companies and organizations, which includes 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. An account is deemed to be dormant in B.C. when a specified period of time has transpired with no activity, from a year to 10 years, depending on the type of account involved.
Most unclaimed accounts in BCUPS's database amount to between $300 to $500. The single largest unclaimed property payout by BCUPS was a $1.01 million estate made in 2019.
“It’s a great service,” says Sue Wallace. “I’ve told many of my friends that they should visit the BCUPS website and search for their name. You never know. You might just find some money you didn’t know you had.”
For a short overview of BC’s unclaimed property program, visit BCUPS’s YouTube channel.