Superannuation and death benefit claims

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In addition to comprehensive estate administration services, Di Rosa Lawyers assists clients in relation to the making of superannuation and death benefit claims, which are often dealt with outside of deceased estates.

Superannuation and death benefit claims often dealt with outside of a person’s estate

The control of your superannuation and other death benefits should be a critical aspect of your succession planning, as these benefits are not necessarily governed by the provisions in your will.

Superannuation benefits are often one of the biggest assets of an individual when they die.  We have seen many instances with young people who die prematurely where there superannuation benefit is their only major asset.

What are death benefits?

The majority of employees are members of public superannuation funds that offer death benefit or disability payments.

In the event of a member’s death, a death benefit payment, which may include life insurance, will be paid by the superannuation fund to a beneficiary in accordance with any binding death benefit nomination or in accordance with the deceased’s will if they have one.

Most funds offer binding nominations, but all funds allow members to nominate ”preferred” beneficiaries, including how to divide the death benefit between them. But preferred nominations are only a guide to trustees of the fund and this is where disputes can arise.

Who can claim?

If there is no valid nomination in place and the benefit by-passes the deceased’s will, the trustee of the fund has to decide to whom the benefit is paid, invariably a dependent of the deceased (for example, this could include a surviving spouse, de facto partner or a child of the deceased or someone who was financially dependent on the deceased).

In most of these instances, a superannuation death benefit claim is lodged by the spouse, child or other next of kin of the deceased.

How does a trustee decide?

When making its decision, the trustee will also consider, among other things:

  • The claimant’s relationship with the deceased
  • The claimant’s financial circumstances
  • The claimant’s level of financial and non-financial interdependence with the deceased
  • Any other parties who wish to claim an entitlement to the Deceased’s superannuation

As you can appreciate, such claims can give rise to significant disputes particularly in blended family situations.  It is possible for any interested persons who are aggrieved by a determination of the trustee of a fund to lodge an objection whereby the trustee is required to review its decision.  If an interested person is not happy with the trustee’s review decision, then that person can lodge an appeal to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

Di Rosa Lawyers provides advice and assistance in relation to all superannuation and death benefit claims including:

  • Dealing with trustees on behalf of the estate and/or beneficiaries in processing death benefit payments
  • Dealing with the trustee if there is an objection
  • Dealing the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal if there is an appeal
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