Pension Fund ordered to relook at Death Benefit Payment
A pension fund should have exercised better discretion when allocating a more than R1-million death benefit to the deceased’s 75-year old mother who already received a State grant, to the total exclusion of his former life partner, the Pension Funds Adjudicator has ruled.
Muvhango Lukhaimane ordered Absa Pension Fund (first respondent) to re-exercise its discretion in terms of section 37C of the Pension Funds Act and consider the request of the complainant, JT Damoense, to be allocated a share of the death benefit.
The complainant was the former life partner of LB Mantjiu who passed away on 4 March 2017. The deceased was a member of the first respondent, administered by Absa Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) Ltd (second respondent).
Following the deceased’s demise, a death benefit in the amount of R1 065 480.00 became available for distribution to his beneficiaries and dependants. The board resolved to allocate the entire benefit to the deceased’s mother, RD Mantjiu, to the exclusion of the complainant.
The complainant submitted she is a nominee in the deceased’s beneficiary nomination form and as such, she should have been considered by the fund.
The deceased passed away in a car accident together with their minor son.
The complainant said that despite the fund’s submission that it considered all the relevant factors in deciding to exclude her, it failed to consider the fact that Ms Mantjiu was 75 years of age and received an old age grant from the State which satisfied all her maintenance needs.
She submitted that the board failed to consider Ms Mantjiu’s needs, her extent of dependency on the deceased, whether or not only the deceased provided her with financial support and if she received income from other sources.
She added that the board failed to consider other sources from whence the deceased’s mother could have received some funds and what impact those funds had on her needs. She asked what socio-economic difficulty would have befallen Ms Mantjiu if she was allocated 50% of the death benefit as set out in the beneficiary nomination form.
She further asserted that the board failed to consider her personal circumstances and the fact that the complainant was a nominee entitled to 50% of the death benefit.
The second respondent submitted that during its investigation, the board established that deceased’s mother, Ms Mantjiu, was a pensioner and was financially dependent on the deceased for maintenance prior to his demise.
She was also nominated to receive 50% of the death benefit in the deceased’s beneficiary nomination form. Due to the fact that the deceased had to maintain his mother, she was accordingly identified as his factual dependant.
It stated that the deceased was involved in a life partnership with the complainant when he signed the beneficiary nomination form on 5 March 2010. The relationship between the deceased and the complainant was non-existent at the time of his demise.
During their period of break-up, the deceased maintained his son with the complainant. Thus, the extent of financial dependency of the complainant on the deceased was the contributions towards his son’s general maintenance and not directly towards the complainant’s financial needs.
In this regard, it referred to an affidavit signed by the complainant wherein she stated that the deceased provided her with money in respect of their son’s maintenance.