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Upcoming changes to the Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act

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Note: This blog post was updated in September 2013 to correct an error.

The Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act, which arose in 2003, was created as model for each province in Canada to use as needed to design their own legislative framework for unclaimed property law. The Ontario government established the Unclaimed Intangible Property Actin 1989 to create legislation around reuniting people and corporations with their unclaimed property, but that statute was not proclaimed in force and was repealed in 2011. Many aspects of the Uniform Act were incorporated into the programs that now operate in Alberta since 2008 and Quebec since 2011.

This Uniform Act includes provisions for a notification process by holders of unclaimed property to would be owners, and the establishment of a public registry of unclaimed property. Both Alberta and Quebec have their own variation of such legislation and programs. The Government of Canada has also established an unclaimed deposits program under the Bank Act. This program is operated by the Bank of Canada and applies to certain dormant property held by banks and federally-regulated trust companies.

Before we go further, intangible property describes something which a person or corporation can have ownership of and can transfer ownership of to another person or corporation, but has no physical substance. It generally refers to but is not limited to statutory creations such as copyright, trademarks, or patents, amounts due under an insurance policy, unpaid wages and interests recognized by such instruments as share certificates and bonds.

So what’s new, according to the Ontario government, a wide variety of intangible property currently lies unclaimed in various institutions in Ontario. In their 2012 Budget, the Ontario government had announced that they intended to “establish a program to allow owners to become reunited with this property and, until it is claimed, allow the property to be used for the benefit of Ontarians. Such a program would be similar to the programs that exist in other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States.”

To this end, the province is holding a public consultation so that interested stakeholders can voice their opinion to affect an upcoming Bill for An Unclaimed Intangible Property Program in Ontario.

Why your opinion matters

The purpose of creating an Unclaimed Intangible Property Program to suit the specific needs of Ontarians is double-fold. Many people misunderstand the law around their intangible property, what they may be entitled to, and how to access what is rightfully theirs. The reasons for this, too, are diverse: much of the law is obscure to many people, and either language barriers, literacy, or numeracy may also create impediments to a working understanding of ones’ entitled means.

Secondly, the Program is intended to function in a practical way to help families and guardians of those with such unclaimed property. If the individual in question has a disability, falls ill, or passes away, his or her finances will be attended to by an appointed steward. This can be confusing and difficult to navigate, as different and additional to that person’s own personal finances. The Program should then provide guidance, clarity, and direction for those persons given the charge of managing someone else’s unclaimed property.

Another point to consider is how the Program could also protect the individual from this second managing party’s potential mishandling, confusion around, or even intentional misuse of his or her unclaimed property. We hear an unfortunately high number of stories about the abuse and unwarranted appropriation of vulnerable persons’ finances and property. Such a program, if enacted with care, should also function to keep stewards and guardians honest.

An Intangible Property Program would be of benefit to business, too. As intellectual property such as copyright, patents, and trademarks are the stuff of business exchange as well as academia, provisions to engender a working understanding of who owns what, and when, and how, is most certainly of interest.

You can read more about the upcoming changes to The Uniform Act in Ontario here

How could changes in the Uniform Act effect you? Do you have an understanding of intangible property?

We would love to hear your thoughts. Also, remember to register your input on the upcoming Bill.

Lauren Bride
Editor at First Reference

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Lauren Bride

Writer and editor at Hudson's Bay
Lauren Bride, B.A. (English Literature / Philosophy) is a writer, copywriter, and editor, working in both fiction and nonfiction. She has done extensive writing and editing for commercial, private, and government clients, as well as storyediting and fiction publication. Lauren also volunteers with the not for profit group NABORS (Toronto). Read more
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3 thoughts on “Upcoming changes to the Uniform Unclaimed Intangible Property Act
  • Yosie Saint-Cyr says:

    Lauren no longer blogs for us so she would not be able to answer your query. After doing some research… Yes you are right… Ontario passed the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act in 1989 but that statute was never proclaimed in force. In fact, it was repealed as of December 31, 2011 by operation of the Legislation Act 2006. The federal government’s attempt to enact such legislation was in 2003 with the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act. We apologize for this error and have corrected the blog post. Thanks, Yosie

  • As an advocate for unclaimed property, I wondered if you could clarify for me. The first line of your post refers to the “Canadian government” establishing the Unclaimed Intangible Property Act in 1989. I have been unable to find references to Canada establishing such an act but I know that Ontario established legislation in 1989 that was never proclaimed into force. Could you confirm or clarify for me if you have a moment? Grateful thanks

  • Arny Handelman says:

    The desire to protect owners from unconscionable fees is proper. However, the imposition of a 10% percentage limit that a private service provider, also called “asset locator” can charge will backfire. The draft Act already states that unconscionable fees cannot be charged. What is unconscionable depends on the individual circumstances in each case. Therefore it makes more sense to leave it up to the parties, and if the owner has a grievance, they can take it to the court-usually the Small Claims Court for redress. The 10% limit will induce asset locators to ignore all but the larger sums that they find. If $500 were found, and the locator were limited to 10%, namely $50., it would be uneconomic for him to undertake a search to find the rightful owner, and then to explain the situation, prepare and obtain authorization to act, and then to process the application. Depending on the preferences and economics of business overhead for asset locators, indeed a 10% limit might mean that a minimum gross earnings of say, even as little as $250. means that every find under $2,500. will be ignored. This will deprive the rightful owners of all sums under $2,500. That is surely a result that is not wanted, so the limit is ill-advised. There either should be no limit, with the law imposing a “reasonable’ percentage as applicable, as well as looking at the bargain between the parties: or there should be a scaled staircase series of limits that shrinks as the sums get bigger.
    The draft act exempts findings for heirs, obviously realizing that a locator could go through a lot of work to trace and find an heir. The same kind of work, only to a somewhat lesser extent, applies to ordinary owner-beneficiaries of unclaimed funds. People move. People marry. People change their name. Corporate beneficiaries dissolve, or are merged or acquired, move, change their name, etc.
    Even if a locator finds a beneficial owner of funds, the transaction is not always completed. The application may be denied for inadequate documentation. Or the beneficial owner may simply refuse to proceed, whether from personal reasons or because of skepticism, regarding the message of the locator as probably a Nigerian scam. After all, the owner gets a telephone call or a letter saying that a company found money that is his. Therefore, the difficulty and time required to find owners, and the partial success rate, increases the need to be adequately compensated for the value rendered by recovering money that was unclaimed, and essentially abandoned and lost. There other general expenses a locator incurs. Long distance, office expenses, couriers, membership in professional associations, etc. 10% is inadequate except for large sums, and it will cause a lot of right owners to be deprived of recovery of their money. It should be rescinded.