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Does the Bank of Canada owe you money?

If you were asked if you knew where all your money was, you would probably pause and then confidently answer yes. But, are you really sure? You could be one of many Canadians with an unclaimed balance – waiting for you to remember it and residing on the Bank of Canada’s books instead of within your own portfolio.

When what’s yours becomes unclaimed

When a bank account has had no activity for 10 years, and the owner cannot be contacted by the institution holding it, the balance is considered unclaimed. It is then turned over to the Bank of Canada, which acts as custodian on behalf of the owner. You may think this scenario would happen infrequently, because surely people are always aware of their finances, but the $577 million the Bank of Canada held in 1.5 million unclaimed balances at the end of 2014 tells another story.

It’s important to make sure you know where all your money is, to keep accurate records of your accounts and to share that information with your loved ones as appropriate. Staying on top of what’s yours is essential to estate planning. The last thing you want is for part of your estate to live in Bank of Canada purgatory while your loved ones don’t even know of its existence. This is why children need a better understanding of everything from their parents’ bank accounts to their investment portfolios so that money does not go unclaimed.

To keep accurate records of your accounts, ensure you save all supporting documents for a balance (bank statement, account pass book, original instrument, etc.) and ensure the person who will act on behalf of your estate one day knows where to locate these records. While you are enhancing your record-keeping, think about any estates you may be acting on behalf of one day (perhaps your parents) and discuss with them the information you’ll need to act on their behalf.

Determining if you have an unclaimed balance

Figure out today if you already are one of the Bank of Canada’s unclaimed balances by searching their unclaimed balances registry online at bankofcanada.ca/unclaimed-balances/.  If there’s an unclaimed balance, start the claim process by submitting your contact details. There’s no cost for searching for balances or submitting a request or claim. Bank of Canada holds unclaimed balances of less than $1,000 for 30 years (once they have been inactive for 10 years at the financial institutions) and balances of $1,000 or more for an astounding 100 years, so it could be worth your while to determine if you ever left a balance behind.

Once you’ve sent in your request, the Bank of Canada may contact you to provide supporting information, such as proof of identity and proof of your connection to the balance. For detailed information about completing the claim process, visit bankofcanada.ca/unclaimed-balances/how-to-claim/.

Keeping records for the future

Talk to us today about keeping accurate records of what’s yours financially so that it never becomes unclaimed.

October 20, 2015

This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact your Investors Group Consultant.