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Could you be one of 7 000 people owed money by the Guardian’s Fund?

And if you are one of the lucky ones, what should you do with your windfall?

At the end of September every year, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development publishes a list of beneficiaries of unclaimed money from the Guardian’s Fund.

The Guardian’s Fund is administered by the Master of the High Court. Its purpose is to hold and administer funds which are paid to the Master on behalf of minors, those incapable of managing their own affairs, unborn heirs and untraceable beneficiaries. The Fund is also used to reimburse creditors from insolvent estates, liquidated businesses or as a consequence of dissolved trusts. In legal terminology, this includes those having an interest in the monies of a usufructuary, fiduciary or fideicommissary nature.

Money entrusted to the Guardian’s Fund is invested in the name of the future beneficiary by the Public Investment Commission and audited annually. If the money in the Guardian’s Fund is unclaimed for 30 years it is forfeited to the state. The Department of Justice is legally obliged to publish the names of beneficiaries in the Government Gazette three times. 

The latest list of Guardian’s Fund beneficiaries was published in Government Gazette number 42727 and was published on 27 September 2019. This gazette details money owed to beneficiaries administered by the Guardian’s Fund from the Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Grahamstown, Northern Cape, (Kimberley), Pietermaritzburg, Northern Gauteng (Pretoria and Mmabatho) Master’s Offices. The gazette does not say how much each beneficiary is due; it merely states that the sum involved is more than R1 000.

Most of the deceased estate beneficiaries include heirs born between 1997 and 2001, who stand to inherit money at either 18 years or 21 years, depending on the instructions of the testator/testatrix. Listed beneficiaries include those with assets which have been unclaimed for a period of more than one year, but less than three years. The dates of death of the deceased who have left money to the named beneficiaries range from 2001 to 2017.

The ages of creditors of insolvent estates and liquidated businesses obviously include all those of working age as well as retired people.

A surprising number of estates have missing information; in some cases, there are no details of the name of the deceased while in others neither the ID number nor the birthdate of the beneficiary are recorded. In some liquidation cases, the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and Telkom are named as creditors. One would hope that both these entities could be easily traced by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

To check if your name is on the list

  • Download the Government Gazette number 42727. You can download the PDF of the Government Gazette by clicking here. The document is 408 pages long, so it would be best if you didn’t download via a cellphone.
  • In the first instance search for your identity number. If your ID number is not there, do not despair. Try searching for your birthdate in the Date/Month/Year format, such as 12 Dec 2019.
  • Many entries on the list only have first names or initials and a surname, excluding both ID numbers and dates of birth. If you have a common surname, put quotation marks around your full name starting with your surname “Tsime, Solomon”, for example. Also, try your surname followed by a comma and your first initial as well as your first initial followed by your surname. You will see that a wide range of formats is used in the document.

Companies that are creditors of insolvent estates or company insolvencies should be searched for under the company name.

If your name is listed

If you find your ID number, you should contact the Master’s Office in question, quoting the Estate Number in the Gazette and provide the required proof of any claim. Help and advice on the claiming procedure is also available on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development website, (www.justice.gov.za) or find out more about the documents you need by clicking here. You can also contact the Chief Master on this email: chiefmaster@justice.gov.za. Heirs can also contact Legal Aid South Africa for help.

If you have trouble with the link, try clicking on the Department of Justice website which also has all the forms you need to complete. For most claims, you will need your South African ID book. Depending on the nature of the claim you may also require a ‘Certificate of Identity’ signed by the executor of the deceased estate or by two fellow heirs. Once you have the required documents contact the right Master’s Office administering the estate which named you as an heir. You can find contact details of regional offices by clicking here.

What next?

  • If you find your name on the list, watch out for unscrupulous agents, brokers or lawyers offering you their help. For complicated claims, you might need to appoint a lawyer (of your choice) to assist you. Payments from the Guardian’s Fund must be made directly to the beneficiary concerned, but when you have received your money you are free to pay the fees of anyone who has helped you retrieve your money.
  • Pause a moment and consider your life priorities. It is important to pay tribute to the many hours of hard work your inheritance took to accumulate before it arrived in your bank account. Don’t feel rushed about making any decisions. It is your responsibility to nurture and grow your windfall. Depending on the amount you have inherited and how you spend it, an inheritance can be a powerful resource. It has the capacity to redirect the path of a family for generations to come. Money set aside for the education of both yourself and others could have a compounding effect and lead to higher salaries and greater opportunities for generations to come.
  • Consult a financial advisor: Studies have found that 70% of the time, ‘sudden windfall’ assets such as an unexpected inheritance or winning the Lotto are lost between the first generation to the second, and 90% lost to the third generation. Look for a financial advisor that you can trust in order to avoid this. A team-based family office like Rosebank Wealth Group will be able to put you in contact with specialist tax and estate advisors and propose a wide range of local and offshore investments to meet your goals, based on the vision you have for yourself and your family.
  • If you have debts, most advisors suggest that these should be paid first, starting with those that charge the highest interest.
  • Make a commitment to live within your pre-inheritance means.
  • Unfortunately, when you acquire wealth you are likely to become a target of your friends and family who may ask you for financial help. It is important for you to find a way to explain that you have long-term plans for your money and to set boundaries.
  • Enjoy some of your new wealth: Set aside a portion of money from your inheritance and spend it on something you have always wanted.
  • Give: There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s money or time to help others without expecting anything in return.

ADVISOR PROFILE

Trevor Lee

Rosebank Wealth Group (Pty) Ltd

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