If you’ve emigrated from South Africa, there’s a chance that you have unclaimed benefits back home. The Financial Services Board (FSB) announced on 19 August 2015 that there is over R20 billion waiting for rightful claimants.

For example, you may have retirement annuities which can be converted to cash once you have financially emigrated. This is an exchange control process involving the Reserve Bank and SARS – it’s a fairly complex process, but one that we specialise in.

Why so many unclaimed benefits?

Rosemary Hunter, Deputy Registrar of Pension Funds at the FSB, maintains the sharp rise in the value of unclaimed benefits is probably due to improved reporting.

Unfortunately, there are several factors contributing to the lack of claims. With the shift from standalone to umbrella funds a few years ago, many funds remained dormant without boards of trustees to deal with their unresolved assets and liabilities. In addition, many fund administrators had not made the effort to ensure proper scrubbing of member data. As a result, funds don’t have member contact details.

Hunter suggests there may also be a lack of expertise and resources necessary to trace beneficiaries. Of course, members are too often ignorant of their unclaimed benefits as well. With neither fund managers nor members prioritising claims, the process is put on the back burner.

Struggle to secure money from South Africa offshore

An issue which has been a thorn in the side for South African expats, as well as migrant workers from other countries is the red tape around offshore claims and transfers. Fund administrators may sit with incomplete paperwork or the wherewithal to track the families of the deceased.

Dealing with the backlog of fund claims

One solution, according to Hunter, would be that a designated individual be assigned to each respective fund to manage the follow-up, tracking and administration of unclaimed benefits. The FSB has also urged individuals to contact them should they have unresolved queries.

Luckily, the digital age has also called for the establishment of a central, searchable database to automate the search process. This database would allow next of kin of deceased members to search for unclaimed benefits using the member’s identity information. If there’s a valid benefit, enquirers will also be directed to a contact person who can manage their enquiry. Or, this is the idea, at least. But it remains to be seen whether this database will function as desired and meet user needs.

Do you have unclaimed benefits?

If you suspect you may have unclaimed benefits, finglobal.com can complete a free search. Request a call back and we’ll contact you!

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