Are your policies all in one place and does your family know what needs to happen when you die?

My mother died two years ago and I am the executor of her estate. This is something I have never done before and I have learnt a lot of lessons. One I have learnt is that it is not fun to be involved in this kind of work and two that I want to ensure that my records are well documented and do not become a huge burden for my children when I die.

The story I am about to tell you, should also ensure that at the end of the day it is your responsibility and that BIG BROTHER insurance company is not always going to have your best interests at heart or even have all the facts.

Two months ago my cellphone rings and within one minute I am convinced I am on a call with a financial scam. At this stage we are in the final round of my Mom’s estate and all the policies and assets have been accounted for.

He says I am looking for Ms LG Smith

Speaking I say.

“Do you know Mrs Davis? “

Yes I say.

What relationship was she to you?

My mother.

Congratulations. We see you mother had an insurance policy with us and you are the beneficiary. I need you to send me your bank details, fill in the claim form and send me your ID.

At this point I get nervous and say I can’t be the only beneficiary. My mom had 4 children and would not leave a policy just to me.

He says. You are the only beneficiary – so you must have been the favourite child!!!!

I get more nervous and tell him if he has anything he should email me and I will look at the details.

An hour later I get an email from him. There is a policy number attached. We had a number of papers that we could not match in my Mom’s estate and low and behold there is a matching number. I only have one piece of paper and it does have the name of her broker.

In the insurance industry there is a system where one can feed in the ID of the deceased and it comes up with all policies where there is a payment due, what policies have been cashed in and this aids the person doing the work of claiming for the estate. On this document against that policy number it said the amount due was zero.

My mother took out this policy in 2000. It was for R100 000 and had a guaranteed value of R150 000 in 2005. There was no paper work or documents about this policy sent to either my mom or her broker in 2005 or in any of the following 11 years. For 16 years this money has been lying somewhere and no correspondence anywhere. Trust me, my mother never threw papers away. It must have slipped her mind that this policy still existed.

The broker contacted the insurance company and the confusion started. The value is R 139 000. Let Mrs Smith put in the claim. The next day, we are not exactly sure what the value is or if there even is a policy? I duly put in the claim and two weeks later my phone beeps and lets me know that the claim has been settled. An amount of R 51 000 has been paid to me. More confusion?? Call the broker again. He enquires and they now say there are 4 beneficiaries and that we are each getting R 51 000. Now the amount has escalated to R 204 000. We request as investment statement to find out where this money has been for the last 11 years. We have been earning a 2% interest rate.

Why do I share this story? It is wonderful to have some extra money but I am now weary of the financial system and the fact that as the client my mother was not consulted or asked if she wanted to earn this wonderful interest for eleven years. I am convinced that this money has not been lying around earning this pathetic return for eleven years. Someone is creaming money off their clients.

We have approached the ombudsman and the case is not resolved yet.

The lesson to learn is ensure that all your policies are documented, that you know what investments you have and that your heirs are in the loop.

Right off to book a trip to visit my children with my money. Thanks Mom for my 60th birthday gift.

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