Last will & testament

What do you mean you don’t read Superannuation Complaint Tribunal determinations in your lunch break?

I do – and a recent determination highlights the effects of having no plan on the family you leave behind. You can read the full determination yourself here or read below for a summary. The determination uses terms like ‘deceased member’ and ‘complainant’ but I have given names to the parties to make it a little easier to follow.

Bill passed away on 6 September 2010, aged 49. He suffered from pancreatic cancer. He left behind a partner (Sandy) to whom he was engaged. Sandy was 46 when Bill passed.

Bill & Sandy were engaged for about 5 years prior to Bill’s death and lived together. Bill had 4 children from a previous marriage, who at the time of his death were aged between 21 and 26. There was evidence of some financial dependence, particularly with his youngest child.

Sandy had twin boys that were living with them both and still attending school at the time Bill passed.

So to recap: Bill had 4 children with some financial dependency from a previous marriage, was in a de facto relationship and his partner had two financially dependent children who lived with them both.

The complaint was regarding a superannuation fund which had a balance of $6,000 and life insurance of $83,000. Bill had:

  • No will
  • No death benefit nomination on the fund in question
  • A non-binding death benefit nomination to Sandy on another super fund

If you read the full determination you will see what was left behind. Written submissions from family friends, Bill’s mother and sister, his children, his partner. Everybody trying to illustrate what they thought Bill’s wishes were.

If he had seen a good estate planning solicitor he would have had a will in place. He would have had binding nominations on his super funds and in turn insurance, and all of this would have expressed Bill’s intentions, not somebody else’s version of events.

Bill would probably have had a bit more than $83,000 of life insurance as well – he clearly had a number of people who he cared for and was providing for financially.

One final detail that is easy to overlook in all the back and forth in a determination. Bill passed away on 6 September 2010. The tribunal’s decision was handed down on 30 August 2013.

Everybody had to wait nearly 3 years for a resolution.

You don’t put in place an estate plan for yourself – in the case of death you will be gone. You do it so that the people you care for get what they need to keep going, and in a timely manner.


(image credit flickr user Ken_Mayer)