Superannuation death benefits

Important information

Superannuation death benefits

Superannuation death benefits are not normally part of your estate when you die.

The trustee of your super fund holds your death benefits (including any life insurance) on trust for your “death benefit dependents”, meaning your spouse, children of any age or person with whom you have an inter-dependency relationship.

Generally the trustee has complete discretion as to whom payments are made.  This means that your super may not be paid as you’d wish. 

Most funds allow you to sign a death benefit nomination whereby you direct the trustee to pay your entitlements to certain beneficiaries or to your estate.  It is prudent to sign a nomination, especially if your superannuation is your largest asset.

There are two types of Death Benefit Nominations:

  • Binds the trustee of your super fund to pay your benefit to the beneficiaries you have nominated in the proportions you have specified.
  • Expires after 3 years.
  • Some super funds allow you to create a Death Benefit Agreement which operates in the same way as binding nomination but does not expire.
  • Your wishes will be taken into account, but the trustee has discretion to determine which of your dependents will receive your benefit and in what proportion.

Death Benefit Nominations can only be made in favour of:

  • your spouse or defacto;
  • your children, including step-children;
  • the executor of your Will or administrator of your estate; or
  • any other person financially dependent on you or with whom you have an interdependency relationship.

When considering who to nominate, you should seek advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer and financial advisor as there may be tax advantages and other considerations.

How to complete a death benefit nomination

To complete a death benefit nomination, you need to complete a nomination form. Each super fund has its own forms, so you need to find the forms published by your fund (see below). 

Follow the instructions carefully – the nomination may be invalid if your form is not completed or witnessed correctly. If you want your nomination to be binding, an online nomination is not enough – you must print, sign and return the form to your super fund.

We have provided links to the nomination forms for most major superannuation funds below. If you need advice about how to complete the form or who you should nominate, please get in touch. 

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