How does money become unclaimed? It’s not just forgetfulness!

February 14, 2024

A common refrain we hear when discussing unclaimed money is, “How do you forget about money?” or “It must be nice to have money to forget about.” We understand the confusion because, at first, it seems like a silly concept. However, money ends up with us not only because it’s been forgotten about, and even then, it’s not as simple as just forgetting. This blog post will discuss the ways money gets forgotten about, or more accurately, the factors that lead to people becoming separated from their assets. It will also shed light on why losing track of your money isn’t just for the scatterbrained or wealthy but rather how it could happen to any of us.

Reason 1: Moving away from your money

One of the primary reasons money gets forgotten about is that people move away and don’t update their mailing address. But what does that look like in reality? A big factor here is that because people left their money somewhere ‘safe’ like a credit union, they feel fine knowing it will be there until they get back in touch with the company or financial institution to update their address. However, this isn’t exactly true because credit unions will transfer your account to BC Unclaimed if you haven’t used it in ten years or more. And when it comes time for the credit union to issue a reminder about your account being transferred to our office, if they have no current contact information for you on file, there will be no way to reach you before it gets transferred. Therefore, this isn’t necessarily because it was forgotten about, but a lot of people don’t realize there’s legislation deciding what is “unclaimed property” and that because of these laws your money won’t always be exactly where you left it a decade before.

Reason 2: You didn’t even know it was yours

Money also ends up with BC Unclaimed because the owner never knew it was theirs to begin with. Lots of times the amounts we hold represent an overpayment on a debt, either with a collections company or a bank that foreclosed on someone’s home. With court cases, individuals may have lost their home to the bank, but any remaining proceeds of the sale after the debts are settled are paid back into court. However, the respondents in these cases are often self-represented and unaware there was anything left over to apply for after their home was sold. This means the money gets turned over to BC Unclaimed after five years of sitting inactive with the court.

Another example of not knowing you were entitled to something is if a relative passed away, and their estate was administered by the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC (“the PGT”). If the PGT can’t locate the heir to a share of that person’s estate, the money will be transferred to BC Unclaimed.

Reason 3: The owner has passed away

One final example of how money becomes unclaimed is when people pass away. When claiming money for their deceased relative, people often remark they never realized their parent had an account with that credit union or an insurance policy with that company. Which explains why these accounts were overlooked by their executor in the initial process of settling the estate, and the money ended up with BC Unclaimed. Money also winds up with us if someone passed away intestate (without a will) and no one is acting as the person’s executor or administrator for a deceased person. In these cases, the money is transferred to BC Unclaimed and will be held in trust for their estate until someone steps in to settle their affairs.


These examples explain the process of how people’s money comes to BC Unclaimed and illustrate why it’s not something that only happens if you’re wealthy. Finally, it’s important to mention these situations are worse for people experiencing financial instability. Frequently, this means they won’t have stable housing, money for a lawyer to represent them in court, or strong ties to their extended family. All these factors together instead mean they are more likely to become separated from their assets. Which is why BC Unclaimed is actively working to build awareness of our services with lower-income individuals and the social services that serve them.

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