In her will, Samantha Naidoo had made her parents sole beneficiaries of her estate. If her parents died before her, her estate was to be left to her two sisters.
Naidoo’s will was declared valid by the high court following an application by her parents, which was opposed by Naidoo.
Seven months ago, Naidoo’s husband Krean lodged a complaint with the Pension Funds Adjudicator - a statutory body that investigates and resolves pension fund disputes - about his wife’s death benefit with Coca-Cola Shanduka Beverages Provident Fund.
He wanted the tribunal to set aside the pension fund’s decision to pay the R3829618.42 death benefit into his late wife Samantha Naidoo’s estate. He also requested that sanctions be imposed on the fund for its conduct.
However, the board of the pension fund made its decision to make payment into Naidoo’s estate.
Her death benefit became available for distribution to her beneficiaries shortly after her death on June 24, 2016.
Eight months before her death, Naidoo had moved out of their common home and had later initiated divorce proceedings against her husband.
When the couple married they had agreed on a deed of settlement that neither party had any claim to the assets of the other.
Naidoo, a business and tax specialist, was aggrieved with the decision of the board and submitted that he was Naidoo’s legal spouse.
He also submitted that his wife had died due to unnatural causes and that the matter was still under investigation by the SAPS.
In June 2018, Naidoo said he visited the pension fund’s offices to provide proof that he was not financially dependent on his late wife.
He was apparently advised that the decision on allocation and distribution of the money was not guided by Naidoo’s will and testament.
He was also advised that they needed a clearing statement from the investigating officers, to confirm that neither he nor his late wife’s family were implicated in her death.
The next month, the fund’s board made a decision to pay the money into his wife’s estate. He was advised he was not eligible for the benefit.
In August, Naidoo raised further queries, claiming proper feedback was not provided.
He said he was also advised that investigation into the death of the deceased was finalised, which he discovered to be false.
He submitted that the basis for the board’s decision was without “basis” or “merits” and was “anomalous” with how the board could make an informed decision when investigations were not finalised.
He therefore wanted the board to re-investigate the benefit allocation once police investigations were finalised.
However, once submissions were made by all parties before the tribunal, it was considered “unnecessary” to hold a hearing.
The pension fund, which was the first respondent in the matter, submitted that Naidoo had no children with her husband and she was survived by her parents and two sisters.
It was also discovered that the deceased did not complete a beneficiary nomination form and that the couple were married out of community of property.
The fund submitted that the decision on payment was, therefore, made on the basis that Naidoo was living alone; that the couple were estranged, with the intention to annul their marriage, with no written evidence that Naidoo intended to reverse her decision as alleged by Krean; and that he had proved that he was not financially dependent on the deceased.
Other reasons included: “The deceased did not have dependants or nominees, as she did not complete a beneficiary nomination form and the deceased’s estate was declared solvent.”
The fund said it also spoke to the investigating officer, who confirmed that nobody was implicated in the death of the deceased.
“The investigation was, for all intents and purposes, finalised by the time the board made its decision.”
Pensions Funds adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane in judgment earlier this month said: “This tribunal finds that the payment of the death benefit into the estate late account is justifiable under the circumstances. In the result, the complaint cannot succeed and is hereby dismissed.”