The dependants you elect may not be the sole beneficiaries of your pension or retirement fund when you die, as anyone who can prove they depended on you economically - including a mistress - may share in the benefits.
Charlson Raphadana, a senior assistant adjudicator at the Pension Funds Adjudicator, says your pension benefits could even be distributed to someone to whom you are not legally married nor have children with.
Raphadana was addressing attendees of a series of the Money Smart Week workshops in Alexandra this week.
The Money Smart Week is an initiative backed by the National Treasury, the finance minister, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority and stakeholders in the financial services industry. Financial literacy sessions will also be held in Mamelodi, Tembisa and Soweto.
Raphadana says that while you may have completed a benefit beneficiary form with your employer stating who should get what portion of your pension fund savings upon your death, it becomes a "wish list" once you die.
This is because the lump sum death benefit that is payable from your retirement fund has to be apportioned fairly to all your "economic dependents" should you die before retirement.
There was an uproar of disbelief from women at the session who asked: "What if you did not know that your husband had children outside of your marriage?"
Raphadana explains that section 37C of the Pension Funds Act governs the distribution and the payment of lump sum benefits from your fund if you die before retirement.
These benefits, known as death benefits, are payable from your pension, provident, and/or retirement annuity fund, and are treated separately from the money and other assets in your estate.