New Brunswick Launches Unclaimed Property Program
On January 1, 2022, New Brunswick became the fourth Canadian province to implement an unclaimed property program to help reconnect consumers with money they’ve forgotten, following in the footsteps of British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.
The Unclaimed Property Act of New Brunswick requires businesses, associations, and government organizations to review their books and identify unclaimed or dormant financial assets. Companies and organizations holding unclaimed funds valued at more than $100 are required to send a notice to owners of the forgotten funds between July 1 and September 30 of this year. If the rightful owners can’t be notified, holders must transfer these dormant funds to New Brunswick’s Financial and Consumer Services Commission (FCNB) between January 1, 2023 and March 31, 2023 through a dedicated online portal
In developing the program, Andrew Nicholson, FCNB’s Director of Unclaimed Property, met and consulted with his Canadian and U.S. counterparts in Quebec, Maine, Alberta, and British Columbia. “Alena Levitz from BCUPS was very helpful in offering her insights and expertise on the types of systems needed to determine and validate a claim so our program would be easy for consumers to use,” he said.
Unlike the BC program, which designates mandatory and voluntary holders that file unclaimed property, all provincially regulated businesses and organizations in New Brunswick are obligated to report and file their unclaimed financial assets.
In New Brunswick, unclaimed property includes dormant financial assets such as credit balances, overpayments and refunds, security deposits, trust deposits for real estate transactions, outstanding amounts payable under a life insurance contract, and deposits held by provincially regulated financial institutions, such as credit unions.
For financial assets to be considered unclaimed in New Brunswick, it typically means a company hasn’t been in contact with the owner in the last three years, or ten years in the case of a credit union.
Considerable effort was made to harmonize New Brunswick’s unclaimed property program with similar programs in the neighbouring jurisdictions of Quebec and Maine. “We also wanted to ensure that the reporting requirements for financial institutions such as credit unions were similar to what the Bank of Canada required for chartered banks, so we didn’t create an uneven playing field,” noted Nicholson.
The Act requires holders to determine if property held will become unclaimed property at the end of this calendar year and the five preceding years: 2017 to 2021. Moving forward, all provincially regulated businesses and organizations are obligated to file and remit unclaimed funds to FCNB on an annual basis.
By mid-2023, FCNB plans to have a free, online registry of unclaimed funds in place where consumers can search for dormant funds and submit a claim. Nicholson envisions it as a seamless online “click and claim process”; a consumer clicks a button indicating the listed financial assets they think are theirs, specifies why the property belongs to them and submits some basic personal information along with available supporting documentation linking them to the unclaimed property. Once the claim is verified by FCNB, the consumer will be reunited with their unclaimed funds.
Businesses and organizations in New Brunswick are currently busy reviewing their books and documenting dormant assets, but Nicholson says the effort will be well worth it. “We have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of consumers in New Brunswick by reconnecting them with their unclaimed money. Holders, in turn, can get unclaimed property off their books and let the program do the hard work of reuniting these funds with the rightful owners. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”