Why is there so much unclaimed money in BC? What we’re doing to ensure it's claimed by the rightful owner.

March 13, 2024

At the time of writing this there’s approximately $218 million listed in BC Unclaimed’s database. So why is there so much money sitting unclaimed in BC? Is it because BC Unclaimed doesn’t want it to be claimed by the rightful owner? Of course not! We don’t want to keep it if it’s yours and BC Unclaimed doesn’t benefit from not giving you your money back. But it does make you wonder, why doesn’t everybody just claim their money? This blog post will discuss what barriers exist that prevent claimants from accessing their unclaimed funds and what we’re doing to change that.

Challenges of the past: it doesn’t always get easier with time.

We’ll start with something we can’t change. Our database has some really old unclaimed funds. Back in 2003 when the province of British Columbia transferred the unclaimed property program to BC Unclaimed, we inherited a database of unclaimed funds that stretches back to the 1850s. Long before computers, the list of unclaimed funds was kept on paper ledgers citing the owner’s name (often only a last name), amount, and the source of the funds. While all these unclaimed amounts are claimable by the owner, we recognize that substantiating a claim to them is harder. There are a couple reasons for this. First, often these older balances don’t have the owner’s birthdates, SINs or a last known address, which are all things that staff can use to help match owners with their funds. Secondly, people don’t keep their paperwork forever, so it may be harder for people to prove the money is theirs. A deeper explanation on why rightful owners need to prove entitlement can be found here.

Inevitably, many of the original owners of these amounts have passed away, meaning their executors will need to submit documentation to prove they are entitled to claim the balance on behalf of their relative’s estate. But for these very old properties, that could mean additional documentation from the executor’s executor and that executor’s executor and so on. Therefore, it’s not wrong to assume the longer an unclaimed balance sits with our office, the more difficult it becomes to claim. This isn’t something we can effectively change. However, there are things we can do in the present to make sure more people can claim their money in their lifetime or before they’ve lost all proof of ownership.

Looking ahead: building awareness and reducing barriers

The same reason money may end up with our Society can also act as a barrier preventing people from claiming it. Many British Columbians simply don’t realize this service exists and a lot of those people also have unclaimed money, and that’s why it’s still waiting to be claimed. This also means people BC Unclaimed notifies about their unclaimed funds often disregard our letters because they think they are a phishing scam. We are working to address this by advertising and conducting outreach efforts with trusted community advisors, such as advocates who can vouch for the validity of our services.

Alongside the lack of awareness of our service, many people do not feel comfortable sending us their documentation to complete their claim. We absolutely understand the concern which is why we are audited on a yearly basis and conduct penetration testing on our website and systems to ensure they are secure. We want people to be assured their personal information is safe in our hands.

Finally, some unclaimed funds are trickier than others to claim. For example, unclaimed court funds can't be claimed without a court order directing BC Unclaimed release the funds. Getting a court order can be a barrier preventing individuals from accessing their unclaimed funds. We are actively working with public legal education and information (PLEI) providers to develop resource guides to help people navigate this process.


While it may seem that many people can never claim their money because there’s so much listed in our database, that’s simply not true. BC Unclaimed will pay out any verified claim no matter how long it’s sitting unclaimed. In fact, we reunited over 500 claimants with their funds last year, totaling approximately $3.9 million. However, we do acknowledge that some money is harder to claim than others and for those tricky claims, it only gets harder the longer the amount sits unclaimed. That is why we are working on building awareness of our services amongst British Columbians and working with PLEI providers to reduce barriers to reclaiming funds. If you are wondering what happens if you never claim your funds, stay tuned for more on that next month.

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