Do you know where your cash is?

2013-07-09 10:00

You may have unclaimed benefits you are not aware of, writes Neesa Moodley-Isaacs

More than 3?million South Africans are owed more than R45?billion in unpaid benefits from retirement funds they have left, according to unclaimedbenefits.co.za.

In many cases, when leaving a company, an employee may not be aware of funds that have accrued to them.

Even if you previously were paid when you left a fund due to resignation or retrenchment, it does not mean you received all benefits due to you.

Errors in actuarial calculations or invalid fund rules may have resulted in an underpayment being made.

This will cover all funds that you may have been a member of since January 1980.

Although fund administrators may be aware of these funds, they have found it difficult to find the recipients as they have invalid contact details.

On average, people move every four years. They also change cellphone numbers, emigrate and, unfortunately, sometimes pass away before unpaid benefits can be paid.

Administrators have found it particularly difficult to find elderly people and individuals living in rural areas, as well as those who have emigrated or tend to be very mobile, making for problems when contacting them.

A new standard from the Association for Savings and Investment SA (Asisa) ensures that life insurers make more of an effort in trying

to trace beneficiaries of unclaimed funds.

The standard on unclaimed assets

The new standard on unclaimed assets came into effect from June and sets out the tracing process that should be followed. It also stipulates what should happen to assets when beneficiaries cannot be traced.

The main elements of the new standard are:

»?Prescription will not apply. In terms of prescription law, a debt does not have to be paid after three years and an unpaid benefit is a debt of a life assurance company to a policyholder. But the rules now exclude policies, which means that you can claim your benefits at any time after they fall due to you.

»?A life company may never take ownership of unclaimed assets. However, any money that remains unclaimed by the time the original policyholder is recorded as reaching the age of 100 may be invested in social-responsibility initiatives that offer a return on capital.

»?Life assurance companies have to report to Asisa once a year on statistics of tracing activities and cases that have not been settled within three years. These statistics will be made available to the Financial Services Board (FSB).

Companies have to trace beneficiaries

Life assurance companies are now obliged to start a process of tracing policyholders or beneficiaries within six months of the assets becoming payable, either as a benefit or a maturity payment, and repeat the tracing process within a three-year period and again within 10 years if the assets remain unclaimed.

If, after 10 years, the company cannot trace the beneficiaries or policyholder, an external tracing company must be used. The only time this requirement may be waived is if the benefits are worth less than R1?000 and the cost of tracing exceeds the amount payable.

Any reasonable administrative and tracing costs incurred after the first attempt to trace the rightful owners may be recovered from the unclaimed assets.

You will also have to consent to the life assurer sharing your personal data with a tracing company to facilitate tracing beneficiaries. If you are an existing policyholder, the life assurance company should provide you with this information as part of its regular communication.

Check for unclaimed benefits

Here are several ways to check if there are any unclaimed benefits due to you:

»?You check the FSB website. To search for a specific unclaimed benefit, you can do a partial search using either the fund name or your surname;

»?Register on unclaimedbenefits.co.za;

»?If you have an old policy or unit trust investment with a company that no longer exists, you can contact Asisa on

021?673?1620 to find out what happened to the company and who controls your investment; and

»?To find out about the policy of a deceased relative, contact Asisa or visit www.asisa.org.za.

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