SMSFs reflecting future responsibilities

Date: Sep 02, 2011

Australians are showing an increasing willingness to get to grips with their asset management in a trend described by some industry commentators as encouraging.

The rising number of self-managed super funds (SMSF) over the last year may be indicative of a shift in the attitude of Australia's population - more people appear to be concerned with managing their affairs personally.

In the last financial quarter, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) reported that the number of SMSFs has increased from 449,070 to 456,472.

Membership numbers have also shown a measured increase, with the latest 2011 figures indicating that over 61,000 individuals have entered into privately managed arrangements in the last year.

While many of these individuals may come to appreciate the greater degree of control offered by a SMSF, it takes more than being financially well-read to make the most of what they have to offer.

People interested in entering into a privately managed fund - or even setting up their own - generally engage with an experienced accountant or lawyer to help them with the process.

The benefits to be gained by using an SMSF can vary depending on an individual's circumstances, meaning that trusted advice on tailoring the documentation could greatly enhance your potential return.

Assets held by a superannuation fund are sometimes not considered to form part of an individual's estate - as soon as funds enter into the control of the appointed trustee, they cease to be regulated by the same set of laws that govern other types of property.

The shares, bonds and other holdings that make up a SMSF are instead governed by a trust deed.

Confusion can sometimes arise over this distinction, especially in cases where the fund's account holder is unaware of the differences in legal options available to them.

To ensure that loved ones are not overlooked in the estate planning process, the individual can make use of a Binding Death Benefit Nomination.

This document will provide the trustee of a superannuation holding on the desired distribution of a person's SMSF assets and may go some way to avoiding potential estate disputes.

If this option is not put in place, the super fund will instead be divided by the trustee amongst surviving dependents, sometimes with consequences the deceased may not have anticipated.