What you need to do about missing participants


As a 401(k) plan sponsor, it’s not hard to lose touch with former employees who still have an account balance in your Plan. The problem is that as a plan fiduciary, you just can’t let that money sit without trying to locate these participants.

Every once in a while, you need to identify missing participants (they are missing since you can’t locate them). Then you should record your methods in trying to locate them.

The Department of Labor (DOL) in Field Assistance Bulletin 2014-01 outlined steps that should be taken to find missing participants:

  • send a notice to a participant using certified mail;
  • check employer records;
  • contact designated beneficiaries;
  • use electronic search tools; and
  • check public record databases and obituaries.

Thanks to the internet, it’s easier to find missing participants, so you have no excuse by doing nothing.

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