Who will inherit your super?

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Clients have many misconceptions around their superannuation and this can impact on how they plan for the future. The right questions can prompt a broader conversation on the benefits of estate planning. 

Many clients naturally assume that their superannuation will be paid in accordance with their will. However, this is not necessarily the case and Hau Nguyen, Director of Renaissance Wealth Advisors, suggests it is made explicit early on that superannuation benefits do not automatically form part of the client’s estate.

“When a person passes away, in most cases their super provider pays their remaining super and insurance benefits to their nominated beneficiary,” he says.

“The superannuation benefits are not part of the person’s will unless the person nominates the estate as the beneficiary to receive the benefits under the Binding Death Nomination.”

Right asset, right beneficiary

Nguyen suggests this becomes part of a broader conversation with the client on the need for estate planning to ensure that, upon passing, the right asset goes to the right beneficiary in the most tax-effective manner.

“It’s vitally important to know that if a deceased person did not make a nomination, the trustee of the super fund may use their discretion to decide which dependant or dependants the death benefits are paid to, or make a payment to the deceased's legal personal representative (executor of the deceased estate) for distribution according to the instructions in the deceased's will,” he says.

According to Nguyen, the importance of checking the death benefit nomination in the superannuation statement ­­— or asking the financial adviser or super provider to do so – cannot be stressed enough to clients. He also stresses the importance of working with estate planning firms.

“Most of the time we encourage our clients to pass on assets to their children or grandchildren in the present day rather than on passing. This is done via straight gifts or no-interest loans. We also encourage our clients to set up strategies to fund their grandchildren’s school education. And of course, all the assets transferred are recorded for estate planning purposes.”

Case study

The following is an example of having an estate plan in place before passing.

“In terms of superannuation death benefits, if no nomination is in place, the tax implications can be quite detrimental,” he says. “It’s best practice for the financial dependent to be nominated as a beneficiary (i.e. Spouse or children under 18 years if age) or any prescribed persons as dependent under the Superannuation Industry Supervision Act 1993 (SIS Act).”

In this case, the deceased’s super benefits were passed to her two daughters (age 15 and 17) as follows:

  1. $100,000 paid to testamentary trust for child 1 (aged 15) and has access to capital at age 25.

  2. $100,000 paid to testamentary trust for child 2 (aged 17) and has access to capital at age 25.

She also has a son (aged 25) from another marriage and he received $100,000 from her term deposit.

The balance of $330,000 was paid to another testamentary trust for her husband with income to be distributed to her husband while he is still living, passing on to her three children equally when he passes on.

She also had a life insurance policy of approximately $700,000, which was used to pay off the mortgage and non-concessional super contributions for her husband.

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Important: This article has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial or taxation situation or needs of any particular individual. Before acting on the information, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. Any information used in this article is for illustrative purposes only. Hau Nguyen is external and not a member of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group of Companies (the Group) and the content or any view expressed by Nguyen does not represent an endorsement, recommendation, guarantee or advice in regard to any matter. CBA, nor members of the Group accept any liability for losses or damage arising from any reliance on external parties, their products, services and materials. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.