What death benefits factors do the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal consider?

Published 20 Jun 2017

Death benefits provide important financial support to the loved ones of a person who has passed away via the deceased's superannuation fund.

Some super members set up a binding death benefit nomination, which means payments are made to a specific beneficiary, while others may choose to have their benefits paid towards their estate.

However, if the fund's trustees are deciding how to divide death benefits among potential beneficiaries, anyone who was dependent on the deceased can make a superannuation claim.

Should your claim be rejected, you must wait 28 days before pursuing a complaint and a further 28 days in order to lodge an appeal with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

The tribunal is an independent statutory body that rules on superannuation issues, including death benefits claims. Let's take a look at some of the factors it may consider when reviewing your complaint.

Who relied on the deceased?

An important issue is who would have continued to receive financial support from the deceased if they had not died. Spouses and young children are regularly high priorities if the fund member had them, but other dependants and interdependents will be taken into account.

How long was the deceased married or in a de-facto relationship?

Spouses and de-factor partners usually rank highly when trusts make distribution decisions, but the tribunal will assess the length of a relationship and whether de-factor partnerships follow the common law definition. How much the deceased contributed to their super since the relationship began may also affect the outcome.

Are you an adult child?

Minor children are often prioritised during the death benefits process, but what about adult children? Financially independent adults aren't typically given the same preference, but those with special needs or who were being supported through further education at the time the deceased died may have a stronger claim.

Who did the member nominate?

Members can make non-binding nominations, which - as the name suggests - trustees are not required to follow. However, the tribunal may attach weight to such nominations after considering how strong the relationship was between the named beneficiary and the deceased.

Were death benefits paid into a will?

Super benefits are not usually part of the deceased's estate unless the trustee specifically decided to distribute them in this manner. If this is the case, the tribunal is likely to examine the will to see what the member's intentions were with regards to asset distribution between beneficiaries.

Would you like to know more about death benefits claims? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Superannuation Lawyers today.

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