Now that new legislation allows a maximum of six members in an SMSF, some fund trustees may be wondering if this could be an easy way to ensure a smooth transfer of their super to the next generation.
The simple answer is yes, but before you start adding your children and their spouses to your fund, it’s essential to develop a detailed SMSF succession plan to head off any potential problems.
Most SMSF trustees understand the concept of estate planning and the importance of deciding how you want your assets distributed when you pass away. But many overlook the importance of also having a detailed succession plan for their super death benefits and SMSF.
Although your estate plan will cover who gets your assets when you die, your Will doesn’t determine who receives your super, or who takes control of your SMSF. The issue of control is also important if you become seriously ill or lose mental capacity.
By putting a detailed succession plan in place, you can ensure there is a smooth transition in the control of your SMSF and the payment of your super death benefits to your nominated beneficiaries. It also reduces the potential for the fund to become non-compliant, as well as providing opportunities for death benefits to be paid tax effectively.
Traditionally, most two-trustee SMSFs were wound up as members got older and became less keen on undertaking the myriad tasks involved in keeping a super fund compliant.
Super law requires SMSFs with an individual trustee structure to have a minimum of two trustees, so many funds are automatically wound up after the death or incapacity of a trustee.
But the introduction of six-member SMSFs provides families with more flexibility to use their fund as a tool for intergenerational wealth transfer. Adding your adult children to an SMSF means they can take over some of the administrative burden as you age. It can also simplify the transfer of assets to younger family members.
There are potential downsides that need to be considered, however, as the trustees in control of your SMSF after your death, are the ones making decisions about the distribution of your super death benefits. If the wrong person gains control of the fund, the most careful estate planning can be put at risk.
Ensuring you have a fully documented Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) in place in the event of serious illness, death or loss of mental capacity is an essential element in a good SMSF succession plan.
Having an EPOA makes it much easier to keep a fund operating smoothly, as the attorney can step in as trustee and take over administering the fund, together with making decisions about fund investments and payment of death benefits.
EPOAs are particularly important in a two-member SMSF if one trustee is responsible for all the fund’s administration and decision-making. If this trustee dies or loses capacity, the less active trustee may be unwilling to take control.
With a carefully constructed SMSF succession plan, you can reduce the potential for disputes and ensure a smooth transition of control to the next generation.
It’s important to remember any instructions you leave in your Will about payment of your super benefits – or control of your SMSF – are not binding on the fund’s trustees after your death. That’s why it’s essential to consider having a binding death benefit nomination (preferably non-lapsing), in place to provide direction for the trustee after your death.
Part of your regular succession planning should be to review your SMSF’s trust deed to ensure it remains up-to-date. You also need to check it includes the necessary powers to achieve your estate planning goals. These powers include the ability to provide income streams to beneficiaries (such as a reversionary pension) and appoint the executor of your Will to take your place as fund trustee.
Tax is also a vital consideration in estate and SMSF succession planning.
Super and tax laws use different definitions of who is and isn’t considered a dependant and how the benefits they receive are taxed, so this needs to be carefully managed.
An SMSF can pay super death benefits to both your dependants and non-dependants, but the tax implications vary. Super benefits generally have both tax-free and taxable components, so talk to us before nominating a beneficiary to ensure your super will be paid tax-effectively.
Nominating a reversionary beneficiary for your super benefit can also be tax effective. A reversionary pension means your beneficiary (usually your spouse), automatically receives your super pension so fund assets won’t need to be sold to pay the benefit. Asset sales can create a CGT bill.
If you would like to discuss your SMSF succession plan, give us a call today.
Every effort has been made to offer the most current, correct and clearly expressed information possible within this document. Nonetheless, inadvertent errors can occur and applicable laws, rules and regulations may change. The information contained in this document is general and is not intended to serve as advice. No warranty is given in relation to the accuracy or reliability of any information. Users should not act or fail to act on the basis of information contained herein. Users are encouraged to contact Rhodes Docherty & Co professional advisers for advice concerning specific matters before making any decision.
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