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Retiree and Survivor Audits

Conducting a Retiree and Survivor Audit

Conducting regular retiree and survivor audits is viewed as a good governance practice for plan administrators. This process usually involves sending out letters requiring retirees and survivors to sign and return a form to confirm that they are still entitled to receive their monthly benefit payment. These audits can help plan administrators meet their obligation to retain and maintain accurate pension plan records, and in some instances, identify payments that should have stopped upon the death of a recipient. However, a pension benefit must not be ceased without concrete evidence that a retiree or a survivor is deceased. 

A retiree’s or survivor’s failure to complete a form requested by the plan administrator or respond to a series of letters and phone calls should not be considered sufficient evidence or a reasonable basis to conclude that the retiree or survivor is deceased.

When attempts to contact the retiree or survivor by phone, mail or email have failed, pension plan administrators should do their due diligence by following these best practices to establish concrete evidence that the retiree or survivor is deceased:

  • Send a registered letter to the retiree or survivor.
  • Contact the recipient’s family or in-case-of-emergency contact to obtain written confirmation that the individual is deceased.
  • Contact the appropriate union to request that they search their records for the retiree’s last known address and contact information.
  • Search online white pages.
  • Review obituary announcements in local newspapers and/or funeral homes.
  • Contact the financial institution where the pension payments are deposited or cashed.
  • Contact the Vital Statistics Records office in each province and territory.
  • Hire a search firm or agency to search public records to assist in finding the retiree(s) and/or survivor(s) or evidence of their death.

When contacting retirees and survivors, plan administrators should be sure that their communications and expectations are clear. It is also important to document and keep a record of all actions taken. Finally, if a notice of the decision to stop pension payments is issued, it is good practice to send the notice by registered mail to the retiree’s or survivor’s last known address.