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Superannuation Death Benefits: Navigating the Waters Beyond Your Will


In the intricate realm of financial planning, superannuation often emerges as a complex yet crucial component, particularly when it comes to estate planning. As Grant Abbott astutely outlines in his authoritative work, "Guru's Guide to SMSF," understanding the nuances of superannuation death benefits is paramount for effective estate management.


1. Superannuation Death Benefits and Wills: A Distinct Separation

A fundamental principle to grasp is that superannuation death benefits stand apart from the assets governed by a person's Will. This distinction is pivotal. When you pass away, your superannuation does not automatically become part of your estate to be dealt with under your Will. Instead, it remains within the superannuation system, governed by the rules of the superannuation fund and relevant legislation, such as the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SIS Act).


2. The Imperative of a Binding Death Benefit Nomination

In navigating these waters, the role of a Binding Death Benefit Nomination (BDBN) becomes crucial. For members of industry and retail super funds, a BDBN is a powerful tool, allowing you to specify who should receive your superannuation death benefits. This nomination binds the trustee of your super fund to distribute your benefits according to your wishes, provided the nominees are dependents or legal personal representatives. Without a BDBN, the trustee has the discretion to determine who receives your benefits, which may not align with your intentions.


3. BDBN vs. SMSF Will: Tailoring Your Legacy

When it comes to Self-Managed Superannuation Funds (SMSFs), the landscape evolves further. A BDBN in an SMSF context allows for more personalised estate planning. Unlike a standard BDBN, an SMSF Will offers the flexibility to distribute specific SMSF assets to dependents. It can delineate whether it takes precedence over a reversionary pension and can even establish a specific testamentary trust under the SMSF for the benefit of a dependent.


This level of customisation is vital. For instance, if you hold a property in your SMSF that you wish to pass to a particular dependent, an SMSF Will can ensure this happens seamlessly, considering tax implications and keeping in line with your broader estate plan.


4. Crafting Your SMSF Will with Expertise

Recognising the intricacies of this process, Abbott & Mourly Lawyers stand ready to assist in crafting an SMSF Will that incorporates a testamentary trust. This approach offers multiple benefits:

  • Tailored Distribution: Ensures specific assets are directed to chosen beneficiaries.

  • Tax Efficiency: Structures death benefits in a tax-effective manner.

  • Asset Protection: Safeguards assets from potential claims against the beneficiary's estate.

  • Flexibility: Allows for changes in circumstances, such as dependents' needs.

  • Peace of Mind: Ensures your superannuation is managed according to your precise wishes.


In conclusion, understanding the interplay between your superannuation, your Will, and the potent tools of BDBN and SMSF Wills is crucial. With the right guidance and strategic planning, your superannuation can be an enduring legacy, managed with precision and care, just as you intended.

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