In 1992 the superannuation guarantee came into effect, which means that Australians born after 1938 and worked at least until age 55 most likely have a superannuation account. Depending on the contributions, investment returns and what was used during pension age, the deceased person’s superannuation account may hold significant amount of funds.You should understand:
- who was nominated as a Beneficiary;
- if the superannuation payment forms part of the estate;
- how many superannuation accounts were held; and
- what additional services were included that may be claimed.
24.1 Death Benefits
Superannuation funds will make payment of the total superannuation fund balance and any additional benefits from other products and services the deceased person may have had in place with the fund.
The total amount of these payments is referred to as a Death Benefit.
24.2 Superannuation and the Will
It is important to understand that a Will (if one is available) does not by default determine to whom the superannuation fund pays a Death Benefit to. Unlike assets such as a house, car or money that are owned by a person, superannuation funds are not owned by the account holder but are held in trust by the superannuation fund.
The superannuation fund is by law required to issue the funds to the dependants of the deceased person and hence will pay to the nominated Beneficiaries by default. However, if the deceased person had nominated their legal representative as the Beneficiary, such as the Executor of the estate, then the payment will be made to the estate and distributed according to the Will so long as the Will was drafted correctly and meets the relevant State/Territory’s legislation requirements.
simplyEstate has partnered with Trusted Partners who will happily help you with any questions you may have about superannuation.
24.3 Type of Beneficiaries
Each superannuation account holder has the option to nominate a Beneficiary. It is important to understand who is considered to be a Beneficiary and the two types of Beneficiaries.
There are important factors that need to be understood when dealing with a deceased person’s superannuation.
24.3.1 Who is Considered a Beneficiary for Superannuation Benefits?
A superannuation fund will normally pay a Death Benefit to one or more of the deceased person’s dependants or a legal representative, such as an Executor or Administrator of an estate.Dependants are defined as:
- The spouse or de facto partner of the deceased person (including same-sex partners);
- The children of the deceased person (including a stepchild, adopted child and a child born after the death);
- People with whom the deceased person had an interdependency relationship (lived together and provided financial, domestic or care support to each other); and
- People who depend on the deceased person financially (relying on the deceased person for bill, rent or maintenance payments or having shared financial commitments like a mortgage).
Most superannuation funds will offer to nominate non-binding or binding Beneficiaries.
24.3.2 Non-Binding Beneficiaries
Non-binding Beneficiaries can be nominated in the super account and is a person who is a dependant or a legal representative.
However, the superannuation fund (trustee) has full discretion to pay the Death Benefit to the nominated non-binding Beneficiaries, to other dependants or directly to the estate.
If the deceased person had only nominated a non-binding Beneficiary, the superannuation fund will consider the relationship of that non-binding Beneficiary with the member at the time of death and determine if payment will be made to that non-binding Beneficiary or a dependant that they deem more appropriate.
24.3.3 Binding Beneficiaries
Binding Beneficiaries must be nominated in writing with the superannuation fund and is a person who is a dependant as defined above or a legal representative such as an Executor of the deceased estate.
The superannuation fund (trustee) will in most cases pay the Death Benefit to the nominated Beneficiaries.
If the deceased person had nominated binding Beneficiaries, the nominated persons(s) will need to apply for the Death Benefit as explained below.
If you believe that the binding Beneficiaries are not entitled to the Death Benefit you should seek legal advice promptly to lodge a review with the superannuation fund within 28 days from being notified.
24.4 Common Additional Products and Services
- Life insurance or death cover
Beneficiaries will receive this when the account holder passes away as a lump sum or as a stream of income (note that life insurance cover may expire after a certain age e.g. if the insured person reaches age 65 or 70).
- Insurance for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)
The superannuation account holder receives benefit payments if seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.
- Insurance for Income Protection (IP)
The superannuation account holder receives an income for a specified time period if unable to work due to temporary disability or illness.
Depending on the deceased person’s superannuation cover and their situation before the death, some or all the above may have been in place. You should speak to the superannuation fund(s) to determine what may be claimed and transferred to the deceased estate.
24.5 Make a Claim – Dependant or Estate
If you completed Step 12 – Notify the Relevant Government Departments, Companies and Organisations, the superannuation fund(s) you have informed about the death should have already responded to you with an explanation of their processes and the documents they require to initiate the estate administration process.Generally speaking the process can be summarised in these key steps but may vary slightly depending on the superannuation fund:
- Inform of the death and provide a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate;
- Request who was nominated as the Beneficiaries, balances and other amounts payable;
- Apply for the death benefit payment by completing the necessary forms;
- The superannuation fund assesses the application, reviews the Beneficiaries and relationship of the applicant;
- The superannuation fund notifies of their assessment and who the payment will be made;
- Appeal the decision with the superannuation fund;
- Appeal the superannuation fund’s final decision with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) within 28 days from that final decision; and
- The superannuation fund makes payment.
The critical aspect of this Step is to determine who the nominated Beneficiaries are to determine if the death benefit forms part of the deceased estate or not. If the Beneficiary is the Legal Representative or Executor, then you want to work through this process to determine the total value of the death benefit and add the expected Death Benefit in the relevant section of the simplyEstate Assets & Liabilities Inventory.
If the Beneficiaries are not the Legal Representatives, then the nominated Beneficiaries will have to apply for the Death Benefit payment. You should notify those persons, provide this information and move on to Step 25 – Claim Insurance & Other Benefits.Always have the following details ready:
- The deceased persons superannuation fund membership number;
- The deceased person’s date of birth;
- The date of death; and
- Details about the deceased person’s spouse, children or Next of Kin.
24.6 Determine what Applies to Your Situation
Once the superannuation fund(s) are informed of the death by providing or presenting the Death Certificate and Will (if available) the fund will contact you and guide you through their process.
The superannuation fund will review the accounts and insurance covers held in the deceased person’s name and determine what documentation they need to ascertain the death has occurred and you are an authorised person, who is a binding Beneficiary, a dependant or a legal representative dealing on behalf of the deceased estate, to ensure that funds will be released to the right account.
24.7 Fund Balance and Statements
At this point, getting a full understanding of all superannuation balances and any insurance payouts that will be managed through the deceased estate is critical (if managed through binding or non-binding Beneficiaries then there is no need to get this info).
Once the steps outlined in Step 24.5 above were completed, the superannuation fund(s) will provide the authorised Executor, Administrator or Next of Kin with an overview of all balances as at the date of death.
Once you have this information from all superannuation funds, you can copy the details to the simplyEstate Assets & Liabilities Inventory.
24.8 Multiple and Lost Superannuation Accounts
24.8.1 Multiple Super Accounts
Of all Australians who have a superannuation account, around 40% have their retirement funds spread across multiple superannuation funds. This means that you will want to find all superannuation accounts owned by the deceased person.
24.8.2 Lost SuperIf you want to check if the deceased person had any lost super, you can complete the Searching for lost and unclaimed super form and post it together with the certified copies of the:
- Death Certificate;
- Will (if available);
- Grant of Probate*; or
- Letters of Administration*.
Australian Taxation Office, PO Box 3578, Albury NSW 2640
24.9 Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration
The superannuation funds will have varying document requirements depending on your situation and the size of the death benefit payable. As a general rule, if the assets held by the superannuation fund are worth $50,000 or more, the fund will most likely request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to finally release the funds to the estate, so you can then distribute the assets to the Beneficiaries.
This process is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Apply for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. If the superannuation fund requests for this now already, you will need to explain that you require the statements showing all balances of the deceased person’s superannuation account in order to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration with the Supreme Court in the relevant State/Territory. Once these are in hand you will contact the superannuation fund again with the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to continue the process to release the funds to the estate.
24.10 Tax Implications
Whilst the taxation of the deceased estate will be covered in more detail in Step 28, it is important to understand that superannuation Death Benefit paid to dependants as defined above are tax free.
However, superannuation tax benefits paid to children of the deceased person who are aged 18 or above and were not financially dependent at the date of death will incur tax.
For further information about tax implications on the estate, see Step 28 – Request Tax Advice for Effective Distribution.
24.11 Major Superannuation Funds’ Information and Details
Each superannuation fund will have their own process in place and provide information about this on their websites. For your convenience simplyEstate has compiled Australia’s largest superannuation funds’ information and details below.
AustralianSuperPhone: 1300 667 387
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm AEST
Post: AustralianSuper Insurance, GPO Box 1901, Melbourne VIC 3001
Relevant Documents – Proof of death
You will need to provide the Certified Copies of the following documents or as requested by the fund:
- Death Certificate;
- Passport, driver’s licence or birth certificate;
- The Will (if available); and
- Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (if required when applicant is a Legal Representative).
Depending on the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant State/Territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Apply for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.Relevant Documents – Proof of Identity of Applicant
To identify yourself, you will need to provide the Certified Copies of the following documents or as requested by the fund:
- Your passport or driver’s license;
- Proof of your relationship with the deceased person (marriage certificate, birth certificate or other);
- Evidence of financial dependence;
- Bank account or loan statements; and
- Documents proving settlement from divorce or separation, including child support where applicable.
AustralianSuper provides a fact sheet that may be useful.
REST – Retail Employees SuperannuationPhone: 1300 300 778
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 10:00pm AEST
Online Chat is available here
Post: Rest Super, PO BOX 350, Parramatta NSW 2124
BT Funds ManagementPhone: 132 135
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 6:30pm AEST
Online Form can be accessed here
Post: Deceased Estates, Estates and Claims Management Team, GPO Box 2469, Adelaide SA 5001
You will need to fax or send:
- a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate;
- a Certified Copy of the Will (if one was made);
- Investor Number;
- Name of deceased person;
- Dates of Birth and Death;
- Account address; and
- Address for future correspondence.
Depending on the size of the Death Benefit and the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant State/Territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Apply for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.
Colonial First State – Colonial Mutual SuperannuationPhone: 13 13 36
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 7:00pm AEST
Post: Colonial First State, GPO Box 3956, Sydney NSW 2001
AMP SuperannuationPhone: 131 267
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 7:00pm AEST
Online Claims Form can be accessed here
SunsuperPhone: 13 11 84
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 6:30pm AEST
Online Chat can be accessed here
Email Form can be found here
Post: Sunsuper, GPO Box 2924, Brisbane QLD 4001
To identify the deceased person, you will need to provide a Certified Copy of one of the following documents:
- Driver’s licence;
- Proof of age card; or
- Birth certificate;
- Death Certificate;
- Coroner’s report;
- Autopsy report;
- Inquest finding; or
- A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, completed by a registered medical practitioner.
Depending on the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant State/Territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Apply for Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.Fact Sheet
SunSuper provides a fact sheet that may be useful.
HostplusPhone: 1300 467 875
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 8:00pm AEST
Email Form can be accessed here
Post – General: Hostplus, Locked Bag 5046, Parramatta NSW 2124
Post – Claims: Hostplus, Locked Bag 9, Carlton South VIC 3053
UnisuperPhone: 1800 825 246
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm AEST
Post: UniSuper Claims Department, Level 1, 385 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
24.12 Spouse accessing superannuation early
Where the death of a person results in severe financial hardship of a spouse or other dependant of the deceased person, superannuation may be accessed early. Also, where a spouse or dependant has a specific medical condition, the same may apply.
Where the person in question has received some form of financial support from the government for at least six months and this is insufficient to cover their family’s costs and additional expenses as a result of the death, including testamentary expenses like funeral and other costs, or medical expenses, that person may be eligible to apply.
You should inform the spouse or dependant of this possibility and maybe offer to support them to approach the superannuation fund(s) to discuss their situation and determine eligibility.
Note: The maximum payment on these grounds can be a maximum of $10,000 per year and will be taxed as a superannuation lump sum as per the ATO website.
Actions and Decisions to Complete Step Yourself
If you have decided to tackle this Step yourself after reading and understanding the above, you may want to:
- Find out how many superannuation accounts were held
(see Step 24.8 above);
- Determine who was nominated as a binding Beneficiary for each fund
(see Step 24.3 above);
- Establish if the superannuation payment forms part of the estate
(see Step 24.5 above);
- Check what additional services were included that may be claimable
(see Step 24.4 above); and
- Update the simplyEstate Assets & Liabilities Inventory with any benefits and claims that form part of the estate
(download simplyEstate Assets & Liabilities Inventory).
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Cost & Effort
Reading: 30 mins
Preparing: 1-2 hrs
Completing: 1-3 hrs
Total: 2:30-5:30 hrs
Effort and cost are general estimates only and are based on the assumption that you complete this step without experienced support.
To find out how this Process Guide works, access the instructions here.
To find out what the capitalised words mean, access the glossary here.
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