Millions of dollars are sleeping on immobile accounts. Most of these are money from the deceased. So far, banks have little interest in finding the rightful heirs. The topic is now back on the agenda.

Picture: Gross national product

Nationwide, according to a recent extrapolation from North Rhine-Westphalia, the figure is about two billion euros, estimates North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Finance Norbert Walter-Borjans – a trend that is clearly rising. The SPD politician wants to raise this treasure – and at the same time remedy a malady, as he tells the German Press Agency. He criticizes the financial institutions: “It can not be that banks bunker money that they are not entitled to.”

“Men’s accounts strengthen the capital base of banks”

The NRW minister sees a need for action and emphasizes that many federal states are aiming for an improvement. So far it is like this: If the banks do not “find or want to find an heir”, the fortune remains there. “The money belongs to someone, and he should get it.” There are even accounts in which the owner would theoretically have to be 120 years old. Walter Borjans says: “Men’s accounts strengthen the capital base of the banks.” It also raises the question of how “honest” the banks dealt with their customers. They should be legally bound to “make every effort to get the claimant to their money”. And a central database would help.

Banks and savings banks can not understand the change requests: “The German banking industry sees no reason to change the existing and proven practice regarding dormant accounts.” If the contact with the customer is lost, mail will be returned as undeliverable, for example, and every bank will investigate, according to the Federal Association of German Banks. If no customer contact can be established permanently, “the assets will always be available to the customer”. The bank does not own a dormant account. The policy should not give the impression that the protection of assets is “at their discretion”.

Association calls for central reporting system

The Verband Deutscher Erbenermittler considers improvements to be necessary. Most European countries would have long established a reporting system for dormant accounts, says VDEE spokesman Albrecht Basse. With a publicly accessible register, potential heirs could also investigate themselves. At the moment, heirs and probationers are unable to obtain secure information about the full amount of assets held by banks.

And the problem will continue to grow, Basse believes. “In the past, when the grandparents were decommissioned, they still came across the old passbook, but in times of increasing online accounts, children and grandchildren soon no longer have much in their hands.” And: “More transparency in the banking system” will also lead to high additional revenue for the state through inheritance tax. That is positive.

Without heirs, the money goes to the federal states

If heirs are determined, the federal states can profit from inheritance tax. If no heirs are traceable at the end, the money would have to go to the states as a “fiscal inheritance” by law. In the NRW push, however, a plus for the treasury is not the focus, underlines Walter-Borjans. According to his ministry, however, it is “a fact” that it can serve the general public better than a bank. Baden-Württemberg’s finance minister Edith Sitzmann (Greens) recently demanded that the state should be given access to accounts and credits if there were no more owners.

The problem of immovable accounts has long been known and must now be addressed with force, the NRW Minister demands. A first attempt of a country AG starting from 2013 had not led to the success. “It would be really easy and not over bureaucratic to make.” Some deletion proposals are already on the table. ” However, there are still discussions among the federal states. Hesse, for example, is “more restrained” with its financial center Frankfurt. And without the covenant, it would not work. But: “The Federal Ministry of Finance, contrary to its promise, apparently has done nothing until today (…). This is bank-friendly, but not citizen-friendly.”