Category: non-U.S. unclaimed property

Lost + Found: NC Holder Seminar, WV Lawsuits, Bona Vacantia in the UK

North Carolina to Offer Holder Education Seminar — The North Carolina Treasurer’s Department is offering a “Holder Education and Reporting” seminar on July 17th at the Quorum Center in Raleigh.  A complete copy of the agenda, and registration information, can be found here.  The seminar is free, but according to the website, limited to the first 150 registrants.

West Virginia Sues Insurers  — In October of 2012, West Virginia sued 10 insurers over their attempts (or lack thereof) to notify beneficiaries of payable benefits.  Now, according to an article on LifeHealthPro, West Virginia has brought suit against 69 more insurers alleging violations of that state’s unclaimed property act.  According to the article, insurers were identified by market share.

UK Bona Vacantia Pot Doubles in Past Year — As we’ve mentioned before, modern US unclaimed property laws have their source in the old common law doctrine of bona vacantia (“ownerless goods”).  Historically, the most typical example of such goods are the assets of a person who dies without a will or any known heirs.  In the UK, this common law doctrine is still alive and well.
Indeed, almost too well – according to a recent blog post on the UK edition of the Huffington Post, the mount of funds held on account of estates with no wills or known heirs in the UK has doubled in the past year to about 33.5 million Pounds (appx. $51.2 million). 

Lost & Found: Escheat’s Ancient Origins, (e-)Bay State Auction, Spooky Deadlines Approaching

Unclaimed Property’s Ancient Origins Alive & Well – As we’ve mentioned before, modern unclaimed property laws in the United States derive, in part, from the ancient doctrine of bona vacantia by which “vacant goods” (i.e., ownerless property) would become property of the sovereign.  Recently the London Telegraph ran an article describing how unclaimed estates in the Duchy of Cornwall ultimately become the property of Prince Charles.  In the U.S., the sovereign powers formerly belonging to the British royals have largely become the powers of state governments.  No word on whether Prince Charles will be retaining a contingency fee auditing firm to make sure that he is getting his share of unclaimed funds in the Duchy.  (Hat Tip to LinkedIn’s Unclaimed Property Holder Forum).

 Bay State Unclaimed Property Auction Set to Begin — From the former mother country to the Cradle of the Revolution.  This Saturday, Massachusetts is set to commence an unclaimed property auction on eBay.  According to MassLive, over 2,000 lots of items, including coins, jewelry and collectibles will be put up for auction.  The Commonwealth hopes to earn $500,000 from the auction, which will  run until December 22nd.

Fall Reporting Deadline Fast Approaching — Beware!  It’s nearly October 31.  The spookiest time of the year (at least in most states).  That’s right, the fall unclaimed property reporting deadline is approaching in several dozen states.  Be sure to get those long forgotten treats reported to the state, lest you receive a trick in the form of an audit.

Unclaimed Property News Roundup

Some miscellaneous items while you’re still basking in you post-fall reporting freedom:

Delaware Publishes Unclaimed Property Owner List — On October 28, Delaware published its most recent list of unclaimed property being held by the state.  As we noted last year at this time, because of Delaware’s interpretation of the priority rules of Texas v. New Jersey (in particular, that foreign-owned property held by Delaware incorporated entities is escheatable to Delaware) this is probably bigger news to large non-U.S. companies than it necessarily is for Delaware residents.

Oklahoma Publishes FY 2011 Reclaim Stats — Oklahoma has recently published a chart showing the amounts it paid in FY 2011.  According to the information the state paid out amounts as little as $0.03 and at least one claim in excess of $1 million.  While total reclaim dollar amounts were not disclosed the unclaimed property department of the Sooner State apparently paid out on more than 12,000 claims in the past year.

Unclaimed Property in British Columbia, Canada

We’ve mentioned unclaimed property held in Canada before, but a recent article by James Kwantes in The Vancouver Sun has a good deal of information on unclaimed property held in the Canadian province of British Columbia (Canada, like the U.S., has a federal government, and unclaimed property is governed by the laws of each individual province).  The situation in British Columbia is quite unique in that a foundation – The British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society – not the government, has been administering the provincial unclaimed property program since 2003.

According to the article (which is well worth a read), the Society is currently holding over $90 million in funds, including some dating as far back as 1859 (even though BC did not become a province until 11 years later).

Unclaimed Property ("Bona Vacantia") in the UK

As we’ve mentioned before, modern-day unclaimed property laws stem from the British common-law doctrine of bona vacantia (“ownerless goods”) under which lost, mislaid, and abandoned property was turned over to the crown.

That doctrine still exists in the U.K.  For example, in the Vale of White Horse (England), local authorities will use bona vacantia to provide public funerals for those who die without heirs, a will, or other burial arrangements.  The remainder of any estate is transferred to the Office of the Treasury Solicitor where unclaimed estates can be searched and claimed.

International Unclaimed Property: Australia

From time to time, we provide information concerning “foreign” (i.e., non-U.S. unclaimed property laws).  Earlier articles have covered unclaimed property in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Kenya, and New Zealand.  Today, we continue our trip in the South Pacific by looking at unclaimed property in Australia. 

According to an article in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald, there are more than A$600 million in unclaimed financial accounts, and some A$1 billion in unclaimed shares held by Australian regulators, state governments, and transfer/exchange agencies.  In addition, the article indicates that there is much more in unclaimed “super” (i.e., retirement benefits), to the tune of A$13.6 billion, or $900 for each working-age Aussie.

The full article, complete with information on claiming funds from the applicable agencies can be found here.

UPPO to Offer Foreign Unclaimed Property Webinar

Unclaimed property laws outside the U.S. have been a regular topic here for quite some time.  Those looking to bolster their knowledge and understanding of non-U.S. unclaimed property laws, and how U.S. laws deal with property owed to non-U.S. owners may want to check out the webinar below.

On May 26, 2011, the Unclaimed Property Professionals’ Organization is hosting a webinar on Foreign Unclaimed Property.  The webinar will cover the basics concerning the reporting and delivery of unclaimed property owed to non-U.S. holder, and provide information concerning the unclaimed property laws of jurisdictions outside the U.S.  (Full disclosure:  the author of this blog is one of the presenters).

The UPPO is probably the most well-known and active organization committed to representing the holders of unclaimed property.  Along with these webinars, the UPPO offers other educational information, networking events, contacts with state officials, and other invaluable opportunities for unclaimed property professionals.  Whether you are new to the field of unclaimed property and looking for help with the basics, or a seasoned veteran looking to expand your knowledge base and contacts, UPPO membership is highly recommended.

New Zealand Supreme Court Upholds Unclaimed Money Act

It is becoming more and more common that countries outside of the United States are enacting or implementing unclaimed property laws, or are enforcing pre-existing unclaimed property laws with new zeal (forshadowing pun intended).  Of course, along with such enforcement also comes controversies regarding the validity or scope of unclaimed property acts (generally, brought by the holder as a defense to a government’s claim).  Last week saw the end of one such controversy in New Zealand.

Last week, the Supreme Court of New Zealand upheld the validity of the 1971 Unclaimed Money Act, and ruled that the Act applied to certain foreign currency drafts issued by 3 New Zealand banks.  (See accompanying article about the lawsuit published on Stuff.co.nz).  Specifically, the banks argued that since the currency drafts were “presentment” items — that is, the banks’ liability to pay moneys under the drafts was conditional on the instruments being presented for payment — they had no obligation to pay until the condition was fulfilled, and hence no obligation to turn the underlying monies for unpresented drafts to the government as “unclaimed.”  The Suoreme Court rejected that argument.

In so doing, the Court followed precedent set in the 2004 case of Thomas Cook v. Inland Revenue, wherein the Privy Council (formerly the court of last resort for New Zealand and many other Commonwealth countries) upheld the validity of the 1971 Unclaimed Money Act against a similar challenge regarding presentment, noting that it was “nonsense” to argue, as the banks seemed to, that “money can only become unclaimed money once it has in fact been claimed.”

Ancient Origins of Unclaimed Property Law Still in Effect — Scotland’s Treasure Trove

As you may know, modern day unclaimed property laws are a descendant of an ancient common law legal doctrine known as bona vacantia (“vacant goods,” in latin).  Under this doctrine, items of personal property with no known owner were deemed to be the property of the sovereign.  (The term escheat, though often used in the context of unclaimed personal property, is actually a misnomer; the common law doctrine of escheat actually referred to ownerless “real” property (i.e., land) not personal property).  While today’s unclaimed property (US) and bona vacantia (UK) laws are primarily addressed towards unclaimed intangible property (e.g., money, deposits, checks, wills, etc.) it is worth noting that the original concepts of bona vacantia and treasure trove are alive and well in the UK.

For example, the BBC News reported yesterday on Scotland’s 330 “treasure trove” cases over the past year – situations where archaeologists and/or ordinary citizens found medieval rings, ancient weapons, and other artifacts.  As the article explains, “[u]nder Scottish law, the Crown has the right to all lost and abandoned property which is not otherwise owned. Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to the treasure trove unit.”  Such items are reported and turned over to the Queen and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer.

Included in last year’s findings was an axe head believed to be between 4 and 6 thousand years old.  There was no word on whether 4,000 years of penalties and interest would be assessed for late reporting.

Find Your Missing Loonies: Canadian Unclaimed Property Article (with Links)

The Toronto Globe & Mail published a very comprehensive article on all the various places that unclaimed property hides north of the border.  The article provides information for unclaimed property databases maintained by the Bank of Canada (unclaimed bank accounts), Canada Revenue Agency (unclaimed tax refunds), the Office of Bankruptcy, even the Ontario Lottery Commission.

As in the U.S., the regulation of unclaimed property in Canada is generally a matter of local (provincal), as opposed to federal, law and differs from province to province.  Some provinces, such as Quebec and Alberta, have fomalized unclaimed property laws and online databases.  In other provinces, such as British Columbia, the laws are mandatory for some holders, but optional for others. 

If you have information concerning unclaimed property laws in other Canadian provinces, feel free to drop us a line.