Uncashed Checks & Locating Missing Participants

April 18, 2017

It can be a problem for plans when a defined contribution retirement plan participant does not cash his or her distribution checks. Plan fiduciaries retain responsibility for such uncashed checks because they are plan assets. Plan fiduciaries can be subject to breach of fiduciary claims and potentially personal liability if they do not take action to attempt to locate and pay participants. The DOL requires a minimum of four steps that plans must take to locate missing participants:

  • Sending notice via certified mail.

  • Checking related plan and employer records.

  • Checking with the participant’s designated beneficiary.

  • Using free internet search tools.

If none of those steps results in finding the participant, plans may need to consider whether paying for search tools or retaining a commercial locator service is reasonable in a given situation.

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