Time to rescue old money from sleeping bank accounts

lost patrimony, inheritage, dormant account, change life, wiolp
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Moving to another country, a death, the closing of a company – there are any number of situations in which a person can forget to update the bank of important information relating to changes to an account.

Losing contact with a customer is something that can happen at any bank anywhere in the world. There are clear rules dictating what measures a bank should take in such cases, but also what customers and their heirs can do to find their assets.

Wake up before your cash vanishes. An account is deemed to be dormant if has seen no activity in the past 60 years. In other words, the provider has lost contact with the account holder and no money has been paid in or taken out. You might think there would be relatively few accounts that were deemed dormant but you’d be wrong.

Of the 150 million bank accounts and building society accounts, up to half a million may be dormant. 

Accounts opened by relatives for children, unbeknownst to those children, are common. Sums also lie untouched when people die and the executor doesn’t realise the account exists. In many cases, busy people simply forget about accounts. 

Typically, a dormant account is just the remnants of savings, but it is not unusual for there to be several hundred thousand in an account. 

A search can be carried out at any time once assets have become without contact – it is not necessary that the 60 years have passed. Because the assets that are contained in this centralized database are subject to bank – client confidentiality, an inquiry may only with proof of entitlement.

Despite the best of efforts to find customers and the possibility for individual searches through the Banking Ombudsman, it can nevertheless occur that contact cannot be re-established for decades. Losing contact with a customer is something that can happen at any bank anywhere in the world. There are clear rules dictating what measures a bank should take in such cases, but also what customers and their heirs can do to find their assets.

In order to give customers a final possibility to search for assets and thus ensure that banks can address dormant assets in a standardised manner and with legal certainty, there is a special procedure in place:

  • Assets that were without contact for 10 years and then remained dormant for a further 50 years (i.e. 60 years since last contact with the customer), must be published on the internet if they are valued at over CHF 500 or have an unknown value, in order to give any parties that are potentially entitled to the assets the opportunity to establish contact. Bank-client confidentiality is rescinded for these assets in order to increase the possibility that the entitled parties can find their assets following publication.
  • here available, the last name, first name, date of birth and nationality of the customer (in exceptional cases the account or savings book number) will be published, as well as the last known place of residence or domicile. This applies to all types of assets, including safe-deposit boxes.
  • Processing of the claim by the bank can result in the re-establishment of customer contact. In this case, the assets are no longer deemed dormant, and the authorised person may dispose freely of such.
  • If there is no response to publication on the website after the specified publication period has elapsed, the assets must be transferred to the federal government by law. The rights of the customers then become null and void.
  • According to the new guidelines, the banks must publish these assets on the website at least once annually.

His publication requirement applies to all relationships that exceed an asset value of CHF 500 or whose value is unknown (for example in the case of safe-deposit boxes).

If no contact is made by a legitimate claimant regarding publication within the specified period, the banks must transfer the assets to the Federal government. The duration of the period is one year. For older assets that have already been dormant for more than 50 years when the new regulation came into force, the period is five years.

Assets of up to a maximum value of CHF 500 will be transferred to the federal government after 60 years without such publication.

Once the assets have been transferred to the federal government, all claims relating to the assets are null and void.

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Register now and find your lost patrimony after your ancestors.

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