There is a flurry of activity around the world with unclaimed property laws but in Canada…such change seems slower than slow and long overdue. Only 2 Provinces have any sort of comprehensive legislation relating to Unclaimed Financial Assets (AKA “Lost Assets” No one loses their Hard earned (and often tax paid) Financial Assets on purpose so..why is Consumer Protection in the form of Unclaimed Intangible Property Legislation not in place across all Provinces & Territories.
Here’s what is and what is not happening in Canada.
But some history and some background on UUIPA (?) first:
Back in 2003, The Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) developed a Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act (UUIPA)
The Act outlined some guidelines/rules for the benefit of Canadian jurisdictions which could be followed; making the process of actually implementing a program a lot easier (!) These rules as outlined, mirrored to a great extent, what has been in place for 50+ years in the US.
The UUIPA specified guidance/rules relating to the following
• Each enacting province or territory would be entitled to receive unclaimed intangible property if the property belongs to an owner whose last known address as shown on the holder’s records is in that province or territory
• Provisions around owner notification process by holders,
• Property would be remitted after a statutorily defined period of time and
• Provisions for a public registry of unclaimed property to be established.
As written, the UUIPA applies to credit balances, shares, cash, bonds, amounts due and payable under insurance policies, trust funds, distributions from retirement or pension plans, gift certificates, etc. The dormancy periods are generally 3-5 years depending upon the property type.
Sadly, despite the good work of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC) back in 2003, only 4 provinces to date have taken ANY action on unclaimed intangible property rules and that does not mean rules are in place. Quite the contrary…
Ontario was the first province to consider unclaimed property way back in 1989 when the province passed the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act. However, the statute was not proclaimed into force and the legislation was repealed at the end of 2011.
It’s hard to believe.
Over the span of 22 years, which included 4 different Premiers from 3 different parties, Ontario could not get the program actually into place for the benefit of Ontarians and the Province generally. Sad. Sad.
In any case, the 2012, the Ontario budget announced Ontario’s intention to try again and create an unclaimed property scheme that would mirror that of the US. The proposal would require current “holders” of intangible property in Ontario to remit such amounts to the Government & put in place a program where legal owners would be able to find and claim those amounts but until such time, the funds would be used for the benefit of all Ontarians. Property to be included in the program would include amounts due under insurance policies, unpaid wages and interests recognized by share certificates and bonds, as well as other property types.
Last June (2013) the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General (OMAG) held a series of round table stakeholders meetings in Toronto for stakeholders to express their opinions related to the new law & sought a second round of written comments from stakeholders which were due back on Sept. 18. (Yes we wrote 8 pages)
While holders may be concerned about a potential “burden” of paperwork and the retroactive application of such legislation It’s time for Ontario to have a program encompassing as much unclaimed property as possible Actually, it’s overdue.
Read more about Ontario’s proposal and related discussions on Ministry of the Attorney General Website the here
Quebec has had a fairly comprehensive unclaimed property program since 1997 and that program has incorporated several aspects of the UUIPA into their program. However, Quebec’s program is not quite as broad in coverage as Alberta’s and is more focussed on financial assets such as securities, dividends, life insurance proceeds but not for example, payroll or accounts receivable credit balances. Holders include financial institutions, insurance companies, trust companies, mutual fund and other investment dealers, credit unions, pension plans holding financial assets, property of successions, property of dissolved businesses, property without an owner and property located in Quebec whose owner is unknown or untraceable. The minimum threshold is property valued at $100 or more. Like the UUIPA (and in the U.S.), jurisdiction is based on the last known address of the owner.
The dormancy period for most of the property types covered by Quebec’s unclaimed property law is 3 years and specifies procedures relating to reasonable searches for rightful owners and notifications as well as claim procedures.
Read More about Quebec’s unclaimed property at http://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/bnr/pfnr/detenteur/procedure_instit.aspx
Alberta’s Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act (UPPVPA) came into effect on September 1 2008. The UPPVPA extends to most property types that are specified in the US. It specifically excludes gift certificates, retail business credits, and certain other property from its scope but does apply to uncashed checks (including payroll), accounts receivable credits, refunds, bonds, shares, amounts due and payable under insurance policies, retirement and pension fund distributions, etc. However, Alberta does specify a threshold amount of $250 or more for the program. Also, while the law was intended to apply to securities, it has delayed implementation of the program to securities pending a review by the Alberta Treasury Board and Ministry of Finance (ATBF)
Read more about the Alberta UPPVPA at http://www.finance.alberta.ca/business/unclaimed_property/info_property_holders.html
The British Columbia form of unclaimed property law and regulations vary significantly from Alberta and the US in many respects. The program applies only to certain types of property valued at various dollar thresholds which can be confusing. The BC program includes the BC Unclaimed Property Society which was established as a non-profit society in 2003 to administer the unclaimed property program for British Columbia for the benefit of the Vancouver Foundation.
The program also specifies between mandatory or voluntary holders. Mandatory holders are required by law to report and remit unclaimed property to the BC Unclaimed Property Society whereas voluntary holders are not mandated by law to report and remit but strongly ‘encouraged’ to do so. Voluntary holders can maintain control of the property and just report.
Mandatory Holders include Municipal and provincial courts, credit unions, and real estate agents, debt collection agencies, and companies being liquidated.
Voluntary Holders include Common types of property voluntary holders report and remit are trust funds, property insurance and closed pension plans.
Read more about the BC unclaimed property program at http://www.unclaimedpropertybc.ca/submit.php
So that’s about it. That’s about all.
There’s not much to write about with respect to Unclaimed Property Legislation being recognized as a “To Do” in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland or the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
- 1 Province with a fairly comprehensive program.
- 1 Province with a somewhat comprehensive program in place.
- 1 Province with something in place.
- 1 Province thinking about putting a program in place (twice) and…
- 6 Provinces and 3 Territories who don’t seem to see the WIN/WIN that Unclaimed Intangible Property Legislation could bring to individuals, families and government
The US has had Unclaimed Property Legislation in place for 50+ years or so in each State. The US looks upon such legislation as an important component of consumer protection legislation. The US has approximately $58 Billion to be found (and it can be found)
Why not in Canada? Our best guess and the few of us that discuss this problem on a regular basis is that Canada has most likely somewhere between $5-$6 Billion in Unclaimed Intangible Assets that’s a lot of economic action waiting to happen.
We’ve built a simple, secure solution that helps individuals and families better organize their important information in order to 1) Engage more proactively in financial/estate planning, 2) Enhance their level of emergency preparedness and 3) to help safeguard hard-earned financial assets from being lost or forgotten
But we also think that all Canadians deserve to have their financial assets safeguarded by Unclaimed Property Legislation. We’d like to know what you think: