Step 24 – Deceased Estate Administration Guide

Claiming Deceased's Superannuation Death Benefit

  • Last Updated: August 2023

This step explains everything you need to know about claiming the deceased person's superannuation and other related benefits, and how to determine whether the superannuation death benefit will form part of the Deceased Estate. It also seeks to answer a common question: How long does it take to get superannuation after death?

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Overview

In 1992, the superannuation guarantee came into effect, which means that Australians born after 1938 and worked at least until age 55 most likely have a superannuation account. Depending on their contributions, investment returns and what was used during pension age, a deceased person's superannuation account may hold significant amount of funds.

You should find out:
  • how many superannuation accounts were held;
  • if a binding death benefit nomination is in place;
  • if the superannuation payment will form part of the Estate; and
  • what additional services were included that may be claimed.

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24.1 Superannuation Death Benefits Explained

Superannuation funds will make payment of the total superannuation fund balance and any additional benefits from other products and services the deceased person may have had in place with the fund.
The total amount of these payments is referred to as a Death Benefit.

Note that claiming the Australian super death benefit may just be one of the death-related claims you'll be making in Sydney, or whichever state or territory the deceased may have held funds, or insurances and other similar financial products.

24.2 Superannuation Death Benefits Paid to the Estate (With Will)

It is important to understand that a Will (if one is available) does not, by default, determine to whom the superannuation fund pays a death benefit to. Unlike assets such as a house, car or money that are owned by a person, superannuation funds are not owned by the account holder but are held in trust by the superannuation fund.

The superannuation fund is, by law, required to issue the funds to the dependants of the deceased person and, hence, will pay the nominated Beneficiaries by default. However, if the deceased person had nominated their legal representative as the Beneficiary, such as the Executor of the Estate, then technically the superannuation death benefits will be paid to the Estate and distributed according to the Will so long as the Will was drafted correctly and meets the relevant state or territory's legislation requirements.

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24.3 Finding Superannuation Accounts of the Deceased

24.3.1 Overview
24.3.2 Multiple Super Accounts
24.3.3 Lost Super

24.3.1 Overview

There is a prevalent issue of lost or forgotten super accounts in the country, mainly because many Australians frequently change jobs or move residences. Each time a person changes their employment or address and does not notify their new employer, a new account may be created. The complexity and number of funds might further contribute to the confusion.

Identifying and consolidating these super accounts for deceased account holders is imperative to Estate Administration. Without locating these assets, beneficiaries might lose out on the rightful funds intended for them. Moreover, this process ensures that any applicable taxes and fees are handled correctly, aligning with both legal and ethical obligations.

The discovery of all super accounts provides a complete financial picture, allowing for a fair distribution of assets. By taking steps to trace these accounts, we can ensure that the deceased person's wishes are honoured and that their dependants or Beneficiaries receive their full entitlement, thus preventing the valuable resources from remaining unclaimed or lost.

24.3.2 Multiple Super Accounts

Of all Australians who have a superannuation account, around 40% have their retirement funds spread across multiple superannuation funds. This means that you will want to find all superannuation accounts owned by the deceased person.

24.3.3 Lost Super

If you want to check if the deceased person had any lost super, you can complete the Searching for lost and unclaimed super form and post it together with the certified copies of the Death Certificate and one of the following: Post To

Australian Taxation Office, PO Box 3578, Albury NSW 2640

24.4 Types of Superannuation Beneficiaries

24.4.1 Overview
24.4.2 Who Is Considered a Beneficiary for Superannuation Benefits?
24.4.3 Non-Binding Beneficiaries
24.4.4 Binding Beneficiaries

24.4.1 Overview

Each superannuation account holder has the option to nominate a Beneficiary. It is important to understand who is considered to be a super Beneficiary and the two types of superannuation Beneficiaries.

There are also several important factors that need to be understood when dealing with a deceased person's superannuation.

24.4.2 Who is Considered a Beneficiary for Superannuation Benefits?

A superannuation fund will normally pay a death benefit to one or more of the deceased person's dependants or a legal representative, such as an Executor or Administrator of an Estate.

Dependants are defined as:
  • The spouse or de facto partner of the deceased person (including same-sex partners);
  • The children of the deceased person (including a stepchild, adopted child and a child born after the death);
  • People with whom the deceased person had an interdependency relationship (lived together and provided financial, domestic or care support to each other); and
  • People who depend on the deceased person financially (relying on the deceased person for bill, rent or maintenance payments or having shared financial commitments like a mortgage).

Most superannuation funds will allow non-binding or binding death benefit nominations of Beneficiaries.

24.4.3 Non-Binding Beneficiaries

Non-binding superannuation Beneficiaries can be nominated in the super account. A non-binding super Beneficiary is a person who is a dependant or a legal representative of the deceased.

However, the superannuation fund (trustee) has full discretion to pay the death benefit to the nominated non-binding Beneficiaries, to other dependants or directly to the Estate.

If the deceased person had only nominated a non-binding Beneficiary, the superannuation fund will consider the relationship of that non-binding Beneficiary with the member at the time of death and determine if payment will be made to that non-binding Beneficiary or a dependant that they deem more appropriate.

24.4.4 Binding Beneficiaries

Binding Beneficiaries must be nominated in writing with the superannuation fund and is a person who is a dependant (as defined above) or a legal representative, such as an Executor of the Deceased Estate. The superannuation fund (trustee) will, in most cases, abide by the binding death benefit nomination or pay the death benefit to the nominated Beneficiaries.

If the deceased person had nominated binding Beneficiaries, the nominated persons(s) will need to apply for the death benefit as explained below.

If you believe that the binding Beneficiaries are not entitled to the death benefit, you should seek legal advice promptly to lodge a review with the superannuation fund within 28 days from being notified.

24.5 Making a Claim – Dependant or Estate

If you completed Step 12 – Notification of Government Departments & Service Providers of the Death, the superannuation fund(s) you have informed about the death should have already responded to you with an explanation of their processes and the documents they require to initiate the Estate Administration process.

Generally speaking the process can be summarised in these key steps but may vary slightly depending on the superannuation fund:
  1. Inform the fund of the death and provide a certified copy of the Death Certificate;
  2. Request information on who was nominated as the Beneficiaries, balances and other amounts payable;
  3. Apply for the death benefit payment by completing the necessary forms (see Step 24.11 below);
  4. The superannuation fund assesses the application, reviews the Beneficiaries and relationship of the applicant to the deceased;
  5. The superannuation fund notifies the applicant of their assessment and to whom the payment will be made;
  6. If the outcome is unfavourable, the applicant may appeal the decision with the superannuation fund. The appeal regarding the superannuation fund's final decision should be lodged with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) within 28 days from that final decision; and
  7. The superannuation fund makes payment if no appeal is made or if the appeal has been resolved.

Note: The critical aspect of this Step is to determine who the nominated Beneficiaries are and establish whether the death benefit forms part of the Deceased Estate. If the Beneficiary is the legal representative or Executor, then you want to work through this process to determine the total value of the death benefit and add the expected death benefit in the relevant section of your Assets & Liabilities Inventory.

If the Beneficiaries are not the legal representatives, then the nominated Beneficiaries will have to apply for the eeath benefit payment. You should notify those persons and share this information.

Always have the following details ready:
  • The deceased persons superannuation fund membership number;
  • The deceased person's date of birth;
  • The date of death; and
  • Details about the deceased person's spouse, children or Next of Kin.

24.6 Common Additional Products and Services

Superannuation funds provide a range of additional products and services. simplyEstate has compiled the following list of common products to help you know what to look for:
  • Life insurance or death cover
    Beneficiaries will receive this when the account holder passes away as a lump sum or as a stream of income (note that life insurance cover may expire after a certain age, e.g., if the insured person reaches age 65 or 70).
  • Insurance for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD)
    The superannuation account holder receives benefit payments if seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.
  • Insurance for Income Protection (IP)
    The superannuation account holder receives an income for a specified time period if unable to work due to temporary disability or illness.

Depending on the deceased person's superannuation cover and their situation before the death, some or all the above may have been in place. You should speak to the superannuation fund(s) to determine what may be claimed and transferred to the Deceased Estate.

24.7 Determine What Applies to Your Situation

Once the superannuation fund(s) are informed of the death by providing or presenting the Death Certificate and Will (if available) the fund will contact you and guide you through their process.

The superannuation fund will review the accounts and insurance coverages held in the deceased person's name and determine what documentation they need to ascertain the death has occurred and that you are an authorised person, who is a binding Beneficiary, a dependant or a legal representative dealing on behalf of the Deceased Estate, to ensure that funds will be released to the right account.

24.8 Fund Balance and Statements

At this point, getting a full understanding of all superannuation balances and any insurance payouts that will be managed through the Deceased Estate is critical (if managed through binding or non-binding Beneficiaries, then there is no need to get this info).

When the steps outlined in Step 24.5 above are completed, the superannuation fund(s) will provide the authorised Executor, Administrator or Next of Kin with an overview of all balances as at the date of death.

Once you have received this information from all superannuation funds, you can copy the details to your Assets & Liabilities Inventory.

24.9 Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration

The superannuation funds will have varying document requirements depending on your situation and the size of the death benefit payable. As a general rule, if the assets held by the superannuation fund are worth $50,000 or more, the fund will most likely request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to finally release the funds to the Estate, so you can then distribute the assets to the Beneficiaries.

This process is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Grant of Probate Application or Applying for Letters of Administration. If the superannuation fund requests for this now, you will need to explain that you require the statements showing all balances of the deceased person's superannuation account in order to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration with the Supreme Court in the relevant state or territory. Once these are in hand, you will need to contact the superannuation fund again with the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to continue the process of releasing the funds to the Estate.

24.10 Tax on Superannuation Death Benefits

Whilst taxation of Deceased Estates will be covered in more detail in Step 28, it is important to understand that there is no tax on super death benefits paid to dependants as defined above.

However, superannuation death benefits paid to the children of the deceased person who are aged 18 or above and were not financially dependent at the date of death will incur taxes.

For further information about the tax implications on the Estate from the super death benefit, including how to avoid death tax on superannuation, see Step 28 – Inheritance Tax & Tax Effective Estate Distribution in Australia.

24.11 Claims Process – Major Superannuation Funds

Each superannuation fund will have their own process in place and provide information about this on their websites. For your convenience, simplyEstate has compiled information and details on Australia's largest superannuation funds below.

AustralianSuper

Phone: 1300 667 387
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm AEST
Email: claims@australiansuper.com
Web: www.australiansuper.com
Post: AustralianSuper Insurance, GPO Box 1901, Melbourne VIC 3001

Relevant Documents – Proof of Death
You will need to provide the Certified Copies of the following documents or as requested by the fund:
  • Death Certificate;
  • Passport, driver's licence or birth certificate;
  • The Will (if available); and
  • Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration (if required when applicant is a Legal Representative).

Depending on the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant state/territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Grant of Probate Application or Applying for Letters of Administration.

Relevant Documents – Proof of Identity of Applicant
To identify yourself, you will need to provide certified copies of the following documents or as requested by the fund:
  • Your passport or driver's license;
  • Proof of your relationship with the deceased person (marriage certificate, birth certificate or other);
  • Evidence of financial dependence;
  • Bank account or loan statements; and
  • Documents proving settlement from divorce or separation, including child support where applicable.
Fact Sheet

AustralianSuper provides a fact sheet that may be useful.

REST – Retail Employees Superannuation

Phone: 1300 300 778
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 10:00pm AEST
Online Chat is available here
Email: contact@rest.com.au
Web: www.rest.com.au
Post: Rest Super, PO BOX 350, Parramatta NSW 2124

BT Funds Management

Phone: 132 135
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 6:30pm AEST
Online Form can be accessed here
Web: www.bt.com.au
Post: Deceased Estates, Estates and Claims Management Team, GPO Box 2469, Adelaide SA 5001

Relevant Documents
You will need to fax or send:
  • a certified copy of the Death Certificate;
  • a certified copy of the Will (if one was made);
  • Investor number;
  • Name of deceased person;
  • Dates of birth and death;
  • Account address; and
  • Address for future correspondence.

Depending on the size of the death benefit and the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant state/territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Grant of Probate Application or Applying for Letters of Administration.

Colonial First State – Colonial Mutual Superannuation

Phone: 13 13 36
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 7:00pm AEST
Email: contactus@colonialfirststate.com.au
Web: www.colonialfirststate.com.au
Post: Colonial First State, GPO Box 3956, Sydney NSW 2001

Relevant Documents

Life insurance claim form

AMP Superannuation

Phone: 131 267
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 7:00pm AEST
Online Claims Form can be accessed here
Email: askamp@amp.com.au
Web: www.amp.com.au

Australian Retirement Trust (formerly Sunsuper and Qsuper)

Phone: 13 11 84
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 7:30pm AEST
Online Chat can be accessed here
Email Form can be found here
Web: www.australianretirementtrust.com.au
Post: Australian Retirement Trust, GPO Box 2924, Brisbane QLD 4001

Relevant Documents
To identify the deceased person, you will need to provide a certified copy of one of the following documents:
  • Driver's licence;
  • Passport;
  • Proof of age card; or
  • Birth certificate;
and one of the following documents:
  • Death Certificate;
  • Coroner's report;
  • Autopsy report;
  • Inquest finding; or
  • A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, completed by a registered medical practitioner.

Depending on the situation, the superannuation fund may request a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration issued by the Supreme Court in the relevant state/territory. This is explained in more detail in Step 27 – Grant of Probate Application or Applying for Letters of Administration.

Fact Sheet

SunSuper provides a fact sheet that may be useful.

Hostplus

Phone: 1300 467 875
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 8:00pm AEST
Email Form can be accessed here
Web: www.hostplus.com.au
Post – General: Hostplus, Locked Bag 5046, Parramatta NSW 2124
Post – Claims: Hostplus, Locked Bag 9, Carlton South VIC 3053

Unisuper

Phone: 1800 825 246
Contact Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm AEST
Email: claims@unisuper.com.au
Web: www.unisuper.com.au
Post: UniSuper Claims Department, Level 1, 385 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

24.12 Spouse Accessing Superannuation Early

Where the death of a person results in the severe financial hardship of a spouse or other dependant of the deceased person, the superannuation death benefit may be accessed early. Also, where a spouse or dependant has a specific medical condition, the same may apply.

Where the person in question has received some form of financial support from the government for at least six months and this is insufficient to cover their family's costs and additional expenses as a result of the death, including testamentary expenses like funeral and other costs or medical expenses, that person may be eligible to apply for the super death benefit.

You should inform the spouse or dependant of this possibility and offer to support them in approaching the superannuation fund(s) to discuss their situation and determine eligibility.

Note: The maximum payment on these grounds can be a maximum of $10,000 per year and will be taxed as a superannuation lump sum as per the ATO website.


Read Further

You are currently on Step 24 – Claiming Deceased's Superannuation Death Benefit. Other steps of interest may be:

< Step 12 – Notification of Government Departments & Service Providers of the Death > Step 27 – Grant of Probate Application or Applying for Letters of Administration > Step 28 – Inheritance Tax & Tax Effective Estate Distribution in Australia

Complete Step

Actions and Decisions to Complete Step Yourself

If you have decided to complete this Step yourself, some actions and decisions may be to:

  1. Find out how many superannuation accounts were held by the deceased (see Step 24.3 above);
  2. Determine who was nominated as a binding Beneficiary for each fund (see Step 24.4 above);
  3. Establish if the superannuation payment forms part of the Estate (see Step 24.5 above);
  4. Check what additional services were included that may be claimable (see Step 24.6 above);
  5. Confirm if taxes will apply to superannuation death benefit payments (see Step 24.10 above); and
  6. Update your Assets & Liabilities Inventory with any benefits and claims that form part of the Estate (download the simplyEstate Assets & Liabilities Inventory).

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Information

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Cost & Effort

Reading: 30 mins
Preparing: 1-2 hrs
Completing: 1-3 hrs
Total: 2:30-5:30 hrs
Cost: $0

Effort and cost are general estimates only and are based on the assumption that you complete this step without experienced support.

Instructions

To find out how this Process Guide works, access the instructions here.

Glossary

To find out what the capitalised words mean, access the glossary here.

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Forms

Search Lost Super

Searching for lost and unclaimed super form

Refer to Step 24.3 above for more detail about these forms.
Other forms not listed here may be required based on your specific circumstances.

Checklists & Tools

Download Australia's most used Executor & Administrator Handbook to get a complete overview and important insights about the Estate administration process.

Download Australia's smartest Assets & Liabilities Inventory to automatically calculate the Estate value for Grant of Probate.

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Executor & Administrator Support NSW

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  • discussing this step in detail
  • claiming deceased's superannuation death benefit
  • engaging an Estate & Probate Lawyer

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Trusted Partner apply for grant of probate or letters of administration with support from Marsdens Law Group in Sydney Camden Campbelltown Leppington Liverpool New South Wales NSW

Estate & Probate Lawyer NSW

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  • assessing legal challenges around superannuation death benefit
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  • administering the Estate end-to-end
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Executor & Administrator Support VIC

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  • discussing this step in detail
  • claiming deceased's superannuation death benefit
  • engaging an Estate & Probate Lawyer

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Trusted Partner apply for grant of probate or letters of administration with support from McNab McNab & Starke Lawyers in Melbourne Essendon Sunbury VIC

Estate & Probate Lawyer VIC

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  • assessing legal challenges around superannuation death benefit
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  • administering the Estate end-to-end

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Executor & Administrator Support QLD

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  • discussing this step in detail
  • claiming deceased's superannuation death benefit
  • engaging an Estate & Probate Lawyer

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  • administering the Estate end-to-end

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