Who gets your Super?
Who decides what happens to your superannuation savings when you die?
You may think that you do, but that isn’t always the case. The ultimate decision may be made by someone you don’t even know – the trustee of your superannuation fund. Let’s look at how you can have greater control.
This article explains the options available for nominating beneficiaries for superannuation death benefits and some of the issues to be considered.
Binding death benefit nominations
The most certain way to direct payment of your superannuation death benefit is by making a binding death benefit nomination. The nominated beneficiaries must be “dependants” – a spouse, de facto spouse, child or financial dependant – or a legal personal representative (ie. the executor or administrator of a deceased estate.)
If the nomination has been properly signed and witnessed and is still current at the date of death, then the trustees of the superannuation fund must pay the death benefit to the nominated beneficiaries.
Unlike Wills, valid binding superannuation nominations are unlikely to be overturned by a court, so they provide great certainty. It is up to the trustees of each superannuation fund to decide whether or not to allow binding nominations, so they aren’t available to everyone.
Although some funds offer non-lapsing binding death benefit nominations, most are only valid for three years, so it’s important to check yours and ensure it remains up-to-date.
The trustee of your super fund is under a legal obligation to pay a death benefit to the member’s dependants. In most cases, benefits will be paid consistently with the wishes of the deceased member. However, it is possible the trustee may recognise a wider range of dependants than the member would have liked – including a separated spouse.
In some cases, the member’s preferred beneficiary may not meet the legal definition of a dependant. This may apply to parents. In the absence of any dependants and a legal personal representative, the trustee may exercise discretion and pay the benefit to a non-dependant.
While dependants receive lump-sum death benefits tax-free, the rate of tax payable by non-dependants can vary from NIL to 32%, depending on the superannuation payment components.
The situation is a little different if the member has already retired and is drawing a superannuation pension. With pensions, it is common to nominate a surviving spouse as a reversionary beneficiary. This means the pension payments will continue to be paid to the nominee, either until their death or until the funds run out. If the reversionary beneficiary dies, any remaining balance is then paid out as a lump sum death benefit according to the type of nomination they have made.
Good advice is required
Increasing levels of wealth being held via superannuation and the nomination of beneficiaries should be made in the context of a comprehensive estate plan. This includes considering how superannuation death benefits are taxed when paid to different types of the beneficiary.
At KMT Partners, we can help you make the right decision. Contact us today to discuss your situation.
This is general advice only and does not take into account your financial circumstances, needs and objectives. Before making any decision based on this document, you should assess your own circumstances or seek advice from a financial adviser at KMT Partners. Information is current at the date of issue and may change.
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