At Stellar Super we are passionate about helping our clients get the most from their Super ~ what we deliver is confidence in the Super Advisory process. This purpose combined with our experience means we have the unique ability to provide a painless experience with the whole journey effectively being managed through one partner who is there for every step of the process to ensure our client’s needs are interpreted and implemented. We know from experience the best result is achieved through a high level, high touch experience, involving close collaboration with the client and delivering on the promise. Achieving quality outcomes for our clients that results in building trust and enhances our reputation is ultimately what drives us and what we do better than anyone else.
The Stellar Team
What client’s say
Starting up an SMSF was one of the best decisions for my family and I. With the help of the Stellar, I was able to purchase my business property through the Fund and pay the rent straight back in. Since doing this, I have seen a large increase in the Fund balance as well as a decrease in my annual tax bill! This set up is much more beneficial for me, and my family in the long run, as all of the rent that would usually be paid to a third party, gets to stay in the family and provide for our retirement. They took all of the stress out of buying a property and I found the Stellar team extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the processes.
Stellar Super have made my transition into retirement so much smoother than I could have imagined. After reviewing my goals and current situation, they recommended that I start a Transition to Retirement Income Stream (TRIS), as I am over 60, it meant that I could take these payments tax free. This second income enabled me to decrease my days at work, whilst not losing any of the income that our household functionality relied on.
I came to Stellar Super because my wife and I felt that we needed a more in-depth look at our SMSF. After discussing our situation with the team, it was identified that the pensions we were taking exceeded the amounts that we needed to sustain our lifestyle, and a re-contribution strategy was suggested. This particular strategy helped us sustain a sizeable balance in the Fund, whilst also decreasing the taxable amounts of our member balances so that our adult children would benefit from the tax savings when we pass on.
Regardless of the size of your superannuation benefits, it is vital that you sort out your estate plans to ensure that you have a well prepared estate plan so that the right assets go to the right beneficiaries. You need to make sure that you get holistic estate planning advice and have arrangements in place to review your estate plans regularly. Estate plans are not to be set and forgotten.
First and foremost it is important to understand that the payment of your superannuation death benefits are covered by the rules of your SMSF trust deed and do not automatically form part of your Estate for distribution in accordance with the terms of your Will. As trustee of your SMSF, you will need to make sure that you have read and understood your SMSF’s trust deed and that you comply with it at all times.
On your death, one option is to rely on the SMSF trustee’s wide discretion to determine who, within the operation of the law, will receive your death benefit and how much each beneficiary will receive.
The alternative is to remove the trustee’s discretion which gives you greater control in deciding how your superannuation death benefits will be cashed. This may be relevant if:
- You want certainty over your estate plan;
- You have a blended family and want all family members to benefit from your superannuation on your death;
- It is anticipated that there will be conflict amongst your potential beneficiaries;
- It is a possibility that there may be conflict amongst the remaining trustees of your SMSF upon your death;
- There is a risk that those controlling the SMSF post your death may not cash your death benefits in accordance with your preferences.
Subject to the specific terms of your SMSF trust deed, ways in which you could consider removal of trustee discretion include:
- Having a valid and current binding death benefit nomination (BDBN) in place;
- Specifying in your SMSF trust deed how death benefits will be distributed; or
- Nominating a reversionary beneficiary to whom your pension will automatically revert to on your death.
To ensure that your death benefits are cashed in accordance with your wishes, it is critical to ensure that your estate plans are comprehensive and that you understand the ownership and control of your assets on your death. It is also important that any superannuation death benefit advice you receive is consistent and complimentary to your overall estate plans and is not in isolation to the other.
At a minimum, we recommend that trustees have their SMSF trust deed reviewed to ensure maximum flexibility when dealing with death benefit payments. It is also recommended this be done alongside a review of any BDBN(s) to ensure that they too are valid and provide certainty in how death benefits will be dealt with upon your death.
When considered in light of an ageing Australia, the value of assets invested in SMSFs and recent court cases, having the correct SMSF documentation and process is essential to minimise the risk of litigation from disappointed beneficiaries to allow a safe passage of death benefits to your intended beneficiaries.
So what should form part of a comprehensive SMSF estate plan? At a minimum it should contain:
- An up-to-date Will
- An up-to-date enduring power of attorney
- An up-to-date SMSF trust deed, including prior variations
- An up-to-date death benefit nomination (if applicable)
- Up-to-date pension documentation (if applicable)
- All trustee documentation, including details of directors and any trustee changes
As an SMSF trustee, you need to take special care when paying death benefits as you are responsible for ensuring that the payment rules are met. Strict rules apply, affecting who can receive a death benefit, the form in which the death benefit can be paid and the timing of such a payment.
Firstly, death benefits can only be paid either to dependants of the deceased member or the estate of the deceased.
Second, the law limits the group of dependants who are eligible to receive a pension on the death of the deceased member.
Finally, trustees must pay a death benefit as soon as possible after the death of the member. Additionally, each death benefit interest can only be paid to each dependant as either:
- a maximum of two lump sums (an interim and final lump sum), or
- a pension or pensions in retirement phase, or
- a combination of both.
It is the limit of a maximum of two death benefit lump sums per dependant that trustees need to keep track of to ensure that the cashing rules are not inadvertently breached, especially where the death benefit is being paid as a pension.
Given the account-based nature of death benefit pensions that can be paid by an SMSF trustee, an SMSF member is generally afforded the flexibility to nominate to convert a death benefit pension into a lump sum payment. This process is generally referred to as the commutation of a pension although may be subject to specific restrictions found in a trust deed.
A partial commutation is where the beneficiary requests to withdraw a lump sum amount less than their total pension entitlement, allowing their death benefit pension to continue. This is common where members withdraw their required minimum drawdown as a pension with any additional income needs met by accessing multiple lump sums from their pension account. This strategy allows the death benefit pension to continue without breaching the superannuation death benefit rules, despite payments in excess of the maximum two lump sum limit.
A full commutation will result in the death benefit pension ceasing at the time the member decides to withdraw their entire pension entitlement as a lump sum. Despite the number of lump sum death benefits previously received, the law allows the beneficiary to roll over the lump sum resulting from a full commutation to another superannuation fund for immediate cashing as a new death benefit pension.
However, where a lump sum resulting from the full commutation of a death benefit pension is paid out of the superannuation system, further clarity is being sought from the ATO to ascertain whether or not this will be treated as an additional lump sum death benefit that would count towards the maximum two lump sum cashing limit. Until further clarity is provided by the ATO, caution needs to be exercised before a death benefit pension is fully commuted and paid to the dependant, especially where the dependant has previously received a lump sum death benefit.
As an SMSF trustee you need to be aware of the restrictions placed on the payment of death benefits to eligible dependants of a deceased member. Trustees who ignore these limitations risk breaching superannuation standards and potentially being liable to be fined by the Regulator.
You may be aware that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has issued letters to nearly 18,000 SMSF trustees as part of a campaign to ensure trustees are aware of their investment obligations.
Of key concern is ensuring that trustees have considered diversification and liquidity of their assets when formulating and executing their fund’s investment strategy.
Importantly, it must be noted that the ATO letters are not an attempt to regulate and limit the control and freedom that SMSF trustees have but rather ensuring that if trustees wish to invest their assets in a certain way that they must clearly articulate their reasons for doing so.
An investment strategy should be considering the SMSF’s blueprint when dealing with the fund’s assets to ensure the SMSF’s investment objectives and members’ goals are met. It provides the parameters to ensure you invest your money in accordance with that strategy. This is where the ATO has a primary function to ensure that trustees act in accordance with these obligations.
An SMSF investment strategy must take into account the following items:
- The risks involving in making, holding and realising the SMSFs investments, their expected return and cash flow requirements of your SMSF.
- The diversification and composition of your SMSF investments.
- The liquidity of your SMSF investments, having regard to expected cash flow requirements.
- The SMSFs ability to pay your current and future liabilities, including benefits to the members.
- Considering whether to hold insurance cover for each member of your SMSF.
An important requirement for you as trustee of your SMSF is to have an investment objective and a strategy to achieve that objective in place, before you start to make decisions about how you want to invest your SMSF money.
Of equal importance is that the investment objective and strategy is not set in stone. You can choose to change the investment objectives you have set for your SMSF at any time.
It’s not uncommon for SMSFs with lower member balances to find diversification a challenge as there is limited money to invest. Nonetheless, you are still required to demonstrate that you adequately understand and mitigate the associated investment risks.
If you find yourself in this position, it is important your investment strategy reflects these risks.
For example, if you have invested in a large illiquid asset such as real property which may form the majority of your fund, it is timely to ensure your strategy reflects the concentration and liquidity risk associated with this investment.
Where you have in place an adequate investment strategy that deals with these risks and can provide the necessary evidence to support your investment decisions, no further action is expected.
Where your fund has not complied with its investment strategy requirements under superannuation law, you may be liable to administrative penalties being imposed by the ATO, as Regulator of the SMSF sector.
Your investment strategy does need to be reviewed at least once a year and this will be evidenced by your approved SMSF auditor. It is also important to review your strategy whenever the circumstances of any of your members change or as often as you feel it is necessary. The following practical tips will help you keep on top of your obligations:
- Put your investment objective and strategy in writing
- Set an investment objective that you can comfortably achieve with the underlying investments you are comfortable to invest in
- There is no template for an investment object and strategy, but make sure they reflect how you intend to invest your SMSF money
- The investments you actually make must be accommodated by the investment strategy you have set
- Most importantly, document your actions and decisions, as well as your reasons, and keep them as a record in order to demonstrate that you have indeed satisfied your obligations as a trustee in this important area