Most people live well into retirement, and on death there will usually be a clear indication as to where any occupational pension comes from. Also, among the older generation, they would often be at the same company for their entire working lives. In Derby, this might have been for the Railway, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds or one of the other big local employers of the 20th century.
In the modern era, people move from job to job more - and often move around the country. I read an article recently that people can have as many as eight or ten different employers, and so may have joined several work pension schemes. The article talked about the Pension Tracing Service, which is aimed at putting people back in touch with occupational pensions they may have forgotten about. It can be accessed through the gov.uk website.
Getting on for 25 years ago, I took some rather sad instructions to administer the estate of a woman who had died in her early forties from breast cancer, leaving her husband to bring up two children aged about 9 and 11. I asked where she had worked before the kids came along and was told she did eight years as a secretary at Rolls Royce, joining from school. The client did not know whether his late wife had joined the work pension scheme, so I ventured that a second class stamp might be a worthwhile investment to find out. Cutting a long story short, I unearthed a £15,000 lump sum and a small bursary for the children until they left school. This was a tremendous help to that family, and would have lain undiscovered until what would have been the woman’s 60th birthday: even then a letter to the former matrimonial home would have been returned “not known” (the family has moved at least twice since to my knowledge).
My own father-in-law had a surprise as he approached his 65th birthday – a small pension from a place where he used to work as a young man. Luckily he had not moved house, because he’d forgotten all about it.
I always asked personal representatives for details of all known workplaces of people who had died under normal pension vesting age, and then made the effort to try and unearth any forgotten-about pensions. Since the advent of the Pension Tracing Service, this has become much easier, but still often needs reference numbers from old letters, especially if the employer in question no longer exists. The fallback is to try and trace someone else who worked at the same place in the hope that they can help with the pension. This might be as easy as looking an old probate file out of store if you can remember an old client with a pension from that place. The deceased client might still be in touch with a former work colleague who could be approached by the family for clues. Local radio phone-in shows can be a help too. So could asking the Local Law Society membership….Don’t always assume the DWP have got it right. A few years ago I noticed that the weekly State Pension a deceased widow was receiving looked suspiciously like the wife’s standard rate. Her husband had died in the late 1980’s before “Tell Us Once” had ever been thought of. I queried it with the DWP, and it turned out they had never been sent the husband’s Certificate of Registration of Death (the white form the Registrar used to give out with a Pension
Service questionnaire on the back). A substantial five figure sum of arrears was duly paid to the estate – much to the delighted amazement of the lady’s three adult children.
Unearthing a long-forgotten asset will always please those who have instructed you, and in their eyes your reputation – and that of your firm – can only be enhanced. Furthermore, it could more than pay the bill for the estate administration.