If you live in New Brunswick, you might soon get a message saying you have unclaimed monetary property.
New Brunswick’s Unclaimed Property Act, which came into force on January 1, requires holders of unclaimed property – like businesses, associations, and government organizations – to review their books and search for money belonging to someone else.
If a business finds property valued at $100 or more, they must attempt to locate the owners three-to-six months before delivering the property to New Brunswick’s Unclaimed Property Program.
If the owner cannot be located, the holder must report and deliver the money to the program, which is administered by the Financial and Consumer Services Commission of New Brunswick (FCNB).
What qualifies as unclaimed property?
Unclaimed property is money and other “monetary property” held by a person, business, or other entity that has been abandoned or forgotten by its owner.
Examples are things like overpayments, refunds, uncashed cheques, and security deposits. Unclaimed property also includes any amounts payable under a life insurance contract, deposits in a provincially regulated financial institution (like a credit union), and trust deposits for real estate transactions.
Money can end up as unclaimed property for several reasons, many of them more common than you might think.
According to FCNB, it can be as easy as someone leaving a job but never returning to receive their last paycheque, or if someone receives cheques they did not cash.
Often, it’s as easy as someone opening and depositing money in credit union accounts and forgetting about it. It may also be something a person had no prior knowledge of, like having a relative pass away and leaving an estate to heirs that were never located.
“Notifying apparent owners is among the first steps holders of unclaimed property must take to meet the requirements of the new legislation,” said Andrew Nicholson, the director of FCNB’s Unclaimed Property Program.
Nicholson said that means businesses could start sending out letters as early as this month notifying New Brunswickers they have monetary property that could be theirs.
Adding it up
The provincial government introduced the Unclaimed Property Act in the Fall of 2019. It created the program to better protect consumers from losing track of such funds.
FCNB estimates thousands of dollars go unclaimed every year in the province, forgotten in accounts and through things like uncashed payments or unreturned deposits.
Earlier this year, the province became the fourth jurisdiction in Canada to implement an unclaimed property program, following in the footsteps of Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia.
In 2021, B.C.’s Unclaimed Property Society returned approximately $1.7 million to its claimants. In 2019, the number was even higher, at $2.7-million.
Alberta’s unclaimed property registry identified holdings of more than $103 million in unclaimed property at the end of March 2020.
New Brunswick’s Act also requires holders to determine if any monetary property they have on their books will become unclaimed property at the end of this calendar year, or in any year going back to 2017.
For monetary property to be considered unclaimed, it typically means a business hasn’t been in contact with the owner in the last three years.
Free to access
Even with FCNB’s considerable outreach on the Act and how it’s been implemented, a notice of unclaimed monetary property coming your way still might still be a surprise.
Nicholson says New Brunswickers who receive a written notice – either by email or letter — can contact the business to claim the money or re-establish contact.
“In other jurisdictions with unclaimed property programs, scam artists have tried to capitalize on these programs by sending fake letters demanding a fee or percentage payment to collect unclaimed property on behalf of the owner,” Nicholson said.
“We want to let New Brunswickers know that there is no fee in New Brunswick to claim your monetary property, either from the business who contacts you or from the Commission once the property has been delivered to the program.”
If apparent owners fail to contact the holders by a specific date, as set out in the written notice, the property will be delivered to the program during the first reporting period, set for January 1 to March 31, 2023.
Searchable database in the works
The FCNB, meanwhile, is hoping New Brunswickers will be able to search and claim their unclaimed property through a free online database that it expects to be up and running sometime later next year.
Once online, the database will allow you to submit a claim if you have discovered unclaimed property in your name, Once a claim is verified, the program will then return the money to the owner.
Nicholson adds any businesses wanting to know more about their reporting requirements can find helpful information and resources at fcnb.ca and through FundsFinderNB.ca.
Tyler Mclean is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.
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