Just in the last two months, two of my friends have had to help settle a family member’s estate. Both of them were the primary or sole beneficiaries of the estate. For one friend, this was expected; for the other, it was a complete surprise. Every now and then, you’ll hear about some millionaire who left everything to an unsuspecting person or even a stranger. A common question that arises is how will you know if you are a beneficiary of such an estate? And if reasonable efforts were made to contact these unsuspecting beneficiaries, but they were nowhere to be found, what happens to all the unclaimed money?
How Money Becomes Unclaimed
Contrary to what some people think (including a particularly vocal blogger), when a person dies, the government does not keep his/her CPF money. Instead, for non-Muslims, that money will transfer according to the deceased’s CPF nomination instructions. For Muslims, CPF will distribute the money in line with Section 112 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act.
Smetimes the beneficiary cannot be found after reasonable attempts are made. It is only then that the money is held with the respective government agency. For deceased estates, the money will stay with the Ministry of Law (MinLaw). There, it is held in trust until the rightful owner submits a claim. Most of the unclaimed money comes from MinLaw. According to a recent Straits Times article, unclaimed money totaled $122,800,000 at the end of 2014.
MinLaw regularly publishes lists of the deceased estates. You can (manually) search for your name or the name of a deceased next-of-kin. Unfortunately, this list is 449 pages. And as of now, there is no digital searchable database of this list.
But for all other unclaimed money, you can search via an online database. If you find your name on the list or in the digital database, that might mean you have unclaimed money due to you. You will need to contact the respective agency or statutory board, and provide the required documents to prove your identity. Each agency/statutory board may require different documents.
Another source of unclaimed money is from IRAS. According to the same Straits Times article, there was $35,000,000 held at IRAS at the end of 2014. Unclaimed money can also result from undrawn pensions, wage credit scheme payouts (for businesses), and refunds from bailiff’s accounts, examination allowances, foreign work levies, factory registration fees, immigration deposits, license fees, security and rental deposits.
How to Search for Unclaimed Money
To sum it up, here’s what to do to check if you are an unknowing beneficiary of a windfall, or if you are due a refund from a government agency or statutory board.
For unclaimed money related to deceased estates, you’ll have to search through a long published list. You can find that list here.
For unclaimed money related to Supreme Court cases which have been left unclaimed for a period of over 4 years, you’ll also have to search through another list. But this list is much shorter than the aforementioned list. You can find that list here.
And for unclaimed money related to any other ministry or statutory board, including IRAS, you can search via an online database. Please visit here for IRAS-related claims and here for MDA-related license fee claims.
It only takes a few minutes to check if you are due some money. Maybe you had a distant relative who was particularly fond of you. Or you overpaid a fee and are due a refund. Who knows? Your odds are still better than playing 4D or TOTO!