The guardians fund falls under the administration of the Master of the High Court. It is a fund created to hold and administer funds which are payable into the hands of the Master on behalf of various persons known or unknown.
The guardians fund consists of all moneys in that fund at the commencement of the Act [Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965], or received by the Master under the Act or any law or in pursuance of an order of court, or accepted by the Master in trust for any known or unknown person.
When the Master receives or accepts any money he must open in the books of the Guardians Fund an account in the name of the person to whom the money belongs or the estate of which that money forms part. If it is not known to whom such money belongs, or if it is more convenient, the account may be opened in the name of the person from whom the money has been received, or of the estate from which the money is derived, as the case may be. The money in the fund is deemed to be deposits for the purpose of the Public Debt Commissioners Act 2 of 1969, and the Master may from time to time pay out of any working balance retained at his disposal under that Act, any amounts due and payable out of the Guardians Fund.
Interest is payable on any amount paid into the Guardians Fund for account of any minor, lunatic, unborn heir or any person having an interest therein of a usufructuary, fiduciary or fideicommissary nature. Amounts paid in for account of any absent person or unknown person or beneficiary will not, unless he falls within the mentioned categories, carry interest.
Interest is calculated on a monthly basis, at the rate per annum determined from time to time by the Minister of Finance, on each rand of the principal sum, and it is compounded annually at 31 March. The Master will furnish information as to the prevailing rate of interest at any particular time.
In the case of money held by the Master on 1 April 1962 interest is calculated from that date. In all other cases interest is calculated from the first day of the month following that in which the money is received by the Master.
Whenever a person becomes entitled to receive any money out of the Guardians fund, he must make application to the Master for payment. The Master will require proof of identity as well as proof of the fact that the person has become entitled to payment. Any person who lays claim to any deposit in the guardians Fund should consult the Master’s office concerned as to the form of application and the Masters requirements. Where the Master has doubt as to how to deal with the moneys he may apply to court for guidance and direction.
Where moneys have been deposited for account of minors or persons under curatorship the Master may make payments to the natural guardian, tutor or curator of any money (whether interest or capital) for certain purposes.
Where any person has the right as usufructuary or fiduciary to money paid into the Guardians fund, the Master may pay it to him or, if he is a minor or person under curatorship, to his tutor, or curator on condition that security is given for a refund of the money on the termination of his right or of his tutorship or curatorship as the case may be.
In September of each year the Master must publish in the Gazette a list of all amounts of R100 or more in the Guardians Fund which have been claimable and have remained unclaimed by the persons entitled thereto for a period exceeding one year but not exceeding five years.
There are people who trace persons entitled to moneys in the Guardians Fund and charge a fee thereof. In terms of Section 103 (1) (eA) of the Act, the Minister may prescribe a tariff of remuneration and prohibit any charge or recovery of remuneration in excess of the tariff.
Any money in the Guardians fund which has remained unclaimed by the person entitled thereto for a period of 30 years as from the date upon which such person became entitled to claim the money, is forfeited to the State.
A practice whereby persons search the register of unclaimed moneys, seek out the persons entitled and obtain cession of their right is prohibited by a direction of the Minister of Trade and Industry in terms of the Harmful Business Practice Act 71 of 1988.
Written by: Richard Mokhele (LL.B)