Tag Archives: SMSF

Superannuation death benefits – review succession plans

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

Superannuation Death Benefit Limitations

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.


When did you last review your SMSF’s investment strategy?

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

COVID-19: Negative returns – looking for the positive?

Despite well formulated investment strategies and appropriate investment advice, no trustee could have foreseen the impacts of COVID-19 on financial markets globally. Whilst history suggests that a strong recovery is likely within a relatively short period after large market corrections, it is still too early to know the impact of COVID-19 on members’ retirement plans.

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2020 Superannuation Specialist Accountant of the Year – Australian Accounting Awards

Stellar Super  enjoyed a great night at the Australian Accounting Awards, hosted by Vince Sorrenti. Stellar Super was excited and proud to take home the 2020 Superannuation Specialist Accountant of the Year award for Brooke Hepburn-Rogers, our Director.

The Australian Accounting Awards is regarded as the industry’s most prestigious accolades recognising excellence across the entire accounting industry. The awards pinpoint professional development and innovation, showcasing both the individuals and firms which are leading the way in the industry.

https://www.accountantsdaily.com.au/australian-accounting-awards/about


Brooke Hepburn-Rogers has been shortlisted for the Australian Accounting Awards 2020

Accountants Daily’s Australian Accounting Awards showcases the industry’s most prestigious accolades recognising excellence across the entire accounting industry. The awards pinpoint professional development and innovation, showcasing both the individuals and firms which are leading the way in the industry.

Award recipients represent a true cross section of the accounting industry, recognising the contributions of the profession’s most senior ranks through to its rising stars.

The finalists which are announced over several weeks beginning on 11 May 2020, features over 260  high-achieving accounting professionals across 33 submission-based categories. Continue reading


COVID-19 – The Government’s economic stimulus packages explained

Over the past two weeks the Government has announced two economic stimulus packages to cushion the economic impact of the Coronavirus.

A total of $189 billion is being injected into the economy by all arms of Government in order to keep Australians in work and businesses in business.

This includes $17.6 billion for the Government’s first economic stimulus package, $90 billion from the RBA and $15 billion from the Government to deliver easier access to finance, and $66.1 billion in yesterday’s economic support package.

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Superannuation death benefits – review succession plans

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.

Continue reading


Superannuation death benefit limitations

As an SMSF trustee, you need to take special care when paying death benefits as you are responsible to ensure 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.

Continue reading