Unclaimed money arises because organisations are unable to locate the owner of funds such as dividends, sale of shares, superannuation, insurance policies, wages, rent, bonds, proceeds from home sales, bank accounts etc. Usually the owner cannot be found because the name or address in the underlying data is flawed or the owner has changed address and forgotten to advise the holder of their funds. Unclaimed entitlements can also take the form of shares in companies or property other than cash.
Lost and unclaimed superannuation is the biggest component of unclaimed money in Australia and about 70% of that is held by superannuation funds, the rest by the Australian Taxation Office.
In each state and territory there is unclaimed money legislation which requires that organisations lodge unclaimed funds with their local state/territory revenue offices. There is also a federal body, ASIC, which holds funds arising from inactive bank accounts, shares, investments and life insurance policies.
Yes, some states have time limits on when claims can be made, others have no time limits and feature unclaimed amounts going back decades. There is no time limit on claims made on ASIC and also ASIC pays interest on unclaimed money.
About $23 billion, almost $1000 for every man woman and child in Australia. By far the largest component of that is superannuation ($21bn), much of which is lost or inactive and some of which is held by the Australian Taxation Office.
ASIC holds about $1 billion and all the states/territories in total about $1 billion.