How to Uncover Unclaimed Money That May Belong to You

How to Uncover Unclaimed Money That May Belong to You

How to Uncover Unclaimed Money That May Belong to You
Reading Time: 5 mins

As of right now, there is upwards of $678 million being held by the Bank of Canada in unclaimed accounts, and some of that money may belong to you. Old bank accounts that have become dormant, CRA cheques that were lost and never cashed, EI money that wasn’t paid out, unknown inheritances, and property programs: all of these are sources of unclaimed money and Canada has been nice enough to hold on to it for you. 

This article will explain everything you need to know about how to find any unclaimed money that may belong to you, including money from old bank accounts, uncashed CRA cheques, forgotten EI checks, unclaimed property programs, and more. We will look at where this unclaimed money comes from, how to track down any money that may belong to you, and how to recover your money if there is any owed to you. 

What Is An Unclaimed Balance?

An unclaimed balance is money that belongs to somebody that has never been retrieved by that individual. Common examples include old bank accounts that have been sitting dormant, uncashed CRA cheques, forgotten EI cheques, and unclaimed property programs. In other words, if there was money owed to you that you didn’t pick up or receive, then that’s an unclaimed balance. The good news is that it may not be too late; you may still be able to recover any money that’s rightfully yours.  

What Happens To Unclaimed Bank Accounts?

The way it works in Canada is that if a bank account remains dormant for more than ten years, then the funds are turned over to The Bank of Canada, which holds the money in trust. If the account balance is less than $1000, then The Bank of Canada will hold on to that money for 30 years. 

For accounts with a balance over $1000, the money is held for 100 years. So, there is an even greater chance that you’ll be able to recuperate what’s owed to you. So, how do you find out if you have any unclaimed money? And if you do have unclaimed money that’s rightfully yours, then how do you claim it?

How Do I Find Unclaimed Bank Money?

To find out if you have any unclaimed money being held by the Bank of Canada, you need to visit the Bank of Canada website. On the site, there is an option to search for unclaimed balances, and you simply fill in your name and search. If any unclaimed amounts exist in your name, then they will show up, and you can proceed with the process of claiming that money, which involves filling out some forms on the website. If you do find an unclaimed amount in your name and file the forms to claim it, then you can expect to receive your money in around 10-12 weeks. 

But unclaimed bank accounts are not the only source of unclaimed money in Canada. As mentioned, you could also have money that’s owed to you from uncashed CRA cheques, forgotten EI cheques, or unclaimed property programs. Let’s go over each of these now, so you can understand what these amounts are, how to find out if you have any unclaimed money from these sources, and how to go about claiming this money so that you can receive what’s owed to you.  

Uncashed CRA cheques

As of January 2022, the Canada Revenue Agency is currently holding more than $1 Billion in uncashed CRA cheques. This money is from income tax returns that were never cashed. Sometimes people receive their income tax refunds but lose the cheque, or it could be that the cheque was mailed out to an old or wrong address and subsequently returned to the CRA; in any case, you could have an amount owed to you from the CRA. You can find out if you have any uncashed CRA cheques via the CRA website, and you can apply to reclaim those amounts from the website as well. 

Forgotten EI cheques

You may also have unclaimed money being held for you by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), including money from any EI cheques that you may have forgotten about. There are approximately 300,000 uncashed EI cheques totalling more than $133 million being held by the ESDC. 

Most of these cheques belong to people who were either on EI at some point or who collected funds from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or old age security payments. The ESDC doesn’t have any online tools for searching out unclaimed or uncashed cheques, so to find out if they have a cheque for you, you’ll need to call Service Canada to inquire.  

Unclaimed property programs

People living in British Colombia, Alberta, or Quebec, or who have ever lived in these provinces, may have unclaimed money that belongs to them from unclaimed property programs. These funds typically come from wages, credit unions, pension funds, or insurance amounts that were never processed. Sometimes inheritance amounts that are either not known about or otherwise never claimed can be collected as well. 

There is no time limit to claim money from these property programs. In fact, there are still amounts being held from the 1800s that are just waiting for somebody to step up and claim them by proving their lineage. You can find out more about these property programs by conducting a Google search for unclaimed property programs in your province. 

Presently, only the three provinces mentioned have such programs, but New Brunswick is currently in the process of starting up an unclaimed property program as well, so in years to come, you may be able to find any money owing to you in New Brunswick as well. 

Unclaimed Inheritance

In some cases, when a distant family member passes away, it’s possible that they could leave money behind for a family member who is completely unaware of the inheritance. There are huge amounts of unclaimed inheritance money in Canada, and some of that money might be yours. 

Often what happens is that somebody will pass away who has no will, and as such, whatever assets they have will be willed over to their next of kin, who may have never even met the deceased and  has no idea that this money even exists. To find out if you have any unclaimed inheritance money or assets, you can search the unclaimed property programs mentioned above or consult with the Bank of Canada.

Other Sources of Unclaimed Money in Canada

There are a few other sources of unclaimed money in Canada that you may be able to retrieve, including money belonging to other individuals who aren’t eligible to claim it, money from estate claims that were never filed, and money from corporate accounts, charities, non-profits, or trust accounts. 

How to Claim Money That’s Not In Your Name

If the unclaimed balance belongs to another individual, then you may still be able to claim the money if you can prove that you have a legal right to the money, you can identify yourself as their heir or trustee, and can provide documentation to prove your identity to  support your claim. So, when you are searching for any unclaimed amounts that may be owing to you, be sure to search for your parents, grandparents, and anyone else you can think of that might have money owing to them which you could be able to claim. 

What If There Is More Than One Claimant?

If more than one person has a valid claim to an unclaimed amount owing, such as may be the case with inheritances or corporate trusts, then the Bank of Canada will resolve to dispense those funds equally amongst the valid claimants. This involves undertaking a three-step process, proving your right to the money, and validating your identity. However,  it could very well be worth the effort, (especially for substantial amounts) and is something you should look into if you suspect you were left an inheritance amount that was never paid out to you. 

Conclusion & Recommendation

There is more than a billion dollars in unclaimed money in Canada right now, and there’s a chance that some of that money belongs to you. Whether it’s from an old bank account that’s been sitting dormant for a while, an uncashed CRA cheque, an old forgotten EI cheque, a provincial property program, or an inheritance you didn’t know about. Either way, this money does not belong to the government, but to Canadian citizens, such as yourself. 

After the statute of limitations has expired, unclaimed amounts are returned to federal coffers, at which point that money is gone forever, so it’s worth taking an hour and investigating to see if you can retrieve any money that rightfully belongs to you. The largest unclaimed account in Canada currently has over $800,000 in it. Who knows? That account might be yours.

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