According to the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), “Some unidentified fraudsters under the disguise of being relatives of workers and retirees under the Contributory Pension Scheme have been approaching Pension Fund Administrators to collect the pensions of contributors…The fraudsters, who have been deceiving the PFAs with fake documents, have successfully collected the pension benefits of some living workers and retirees after providing ‘evidences’ that they are dead” PENCOM recently issued a circular titled ‘Revised Procedures on Processing of Death Benefits’, to all Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). This was to put more stringent control over the process of payment on Death Benefits applications. The PFAs are mandated to do the following before the monies of the deceased can be paid to his or her beneficiaries:

  1. Confirm the genuineness of the Letters of Administration at the Probate Registry and verify the information of the administrators and sureties. Banks and PFA’s charge between N8,000 and N10,000 for legal search and confirmation at the Probate.
  2. Contact the employers of the deceased for confirmation of his or her death and for confirmation of the registered next-of-kin on their records. The confirmation from the employer must be in writing. Only heavens know when the response/confirmation from the employer will get through to the PFA and who will take responsibility to ensure its speed.
  3. `Investigate, confirm and certify the Death Certificates presented by beneficiaries/administrators to PFAs before payment. Recently, at the Probate Registry in Lagos State, Death Certificates from hospitals are no longer required. The only acceptable one is the Certificate of Death obtainable from the National Population Commission at the Local Government.
  4. Ensure that the affixed current passport photograph of the next of kin/legal beneficiary shall be confirmed and certified by the deceased’s employer.
  5. Ensure that the officer of the PFA that undertakes the due diligence in the probate registry, hospital or Police authority writes and signs a report on his or her findings. `
Note that all costs (legal search, transportation, verifications, confirmations) are borne by and deducted from the monies of the deceased. Do you really need to even be concerned about what happens to your monies when you are not there? The Lagos State Probate Registry has also on their own part, not relented in toughening the whole process too. Many people are pension-compliant but have never asked questions on how easy it is for their loved ones to access their monies when they eventually travel to the great-beyond. To some, it is a taboo to talk about death now. “Death is not my portion”, they say. They believe that writing a Will is somehow an invitation to death. I recently went as an Executor for the reading of the Will of one of our deceased’s client, a Divisional Police Officer. All his well-placed brothers came in doubt for the reading of the alleged Will of their late brother. They verily believed the deceased could not have written a Will. They had already started out on the process of sale of some of the deceased’s property merely because he had no surviving male child. He had only four female children who were minors. They thought it was time for them to claim all that their late brother worked for. But luckily enough, the deceased put his house in order before joining his ancestors. He willed everything to his loving wife and his four daughters just two years before his death. It was unbelievable for them to see that the Will was truly signed by their late brother. They went home in shame. Your pension is enough reason why you should have a Will. Someone out there may snob my candid advice of having a Will because of how costly it is to get one. With the recent development in legal practice and the services of a competent law firm, it is easy and Cost-efficient to get a Will than to torture your beneficiaries through the process of Letters of Administration at your intestate demise. Companies like Seven-Up, Nigerian Breweries, Nigerite, DHL, etc. are doing a lot for their staff. They have underwritten a Group Legal Insurance for their Unions. Union members have their Wills handy and are rest assured that even the government will respect their wishes at their demise. I am too young and don’t like talking about death now. But each time I went to the Probate court and saw the hell beneficiaries go through, I always wished that the dead could be given a glimpse into the ordeal of their loved ones and an opportunity to make amends their wrong choice of not having a Will. There are ways out of all these messy and lengthy processes of Letters of Administration. Unions, Co-operatives, Clubs begin to discuss Wills and Living Trusts with your members and your lawyers. Take advantage of your bunching together in groups to get affordable and valid Wills for your members. Whatever your age, if you have an Estate, Pension, cash in banks, houses, flourishing business, Shares, floating securities and debts, valuable assets, or even people you would like to look after, consider making a Will. BENNYBONNY EUCHARIA, A Legal Practitioner based in Lagos State With specialty in Probate, Estate Planning and Group Legal Insurance., [email protected], 0806-605-3162.]]>

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