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Superannuation Death Benefit Nominations for Expats

Superannuation Death Benefit Nominations for Expats - Ally Wealth Management

Imagine working hard all your life, diligently saving in your superannuation fund, only to have those benefits go to someone unintended upon your demise. Sounds unsettling, right? As an Australian expat, it’s crucial for you to understand the intricacies of superannuation death benefit nominations.

Let’s dive deep into this topic and ensure your hard-earned assets go to the right hands.

Understanding the Role of Trustees

You might think that your superannuation death benefits automatically become part of your estate, but here’s a surprise: they don’t. These benefits are held by trustees of the fund, and they carry a set of rules that might be different from what you expect.

Why does this matter to you? Because these trustees have the power to decide how your benefits are distributed after your death. So, if you want to ensure your loved ones receive what you intend for them, you need to nominate a death benefit beneficiary. And yes, you can nominate more than one person.

Types of Superannuation Death Benefit Nominations

When you’re considering nominating a beneficiary, it’s essential to know the different types of nominations available to you:

  • Binding Death Benefit Nomination (BDBN): Think of this as a directive to your superannuation fund’s trustee. This nomination is valid for up to three years. After that, if you don’t renew or change it, it lapses. The catch? If it’s valid at the time of your death, the trustee is legally bound to follow it.
  • Non-binding Death Benefit Nomination: This serves as a guide to the trustee. It suggests how and to whom you’d like your death benefit paid. However, it doesn’t bind the trustee to your instructions.
  • Non-lapsing Binding Death Benefit Nomination: This is a BDBN without an expiration date. It’s a set-and-forget type, but it’s always a good idea to review it regularly.
  • Reversionary: This is for those receiving an income stream from their superannuation. It allows you to nominate someone to continue receiving your pension benefits after your death.

Superannuation Dependents: A Deeper Dive

Understanding who qualifies as a dependent for superannuation purposes is crucial. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  • Spouse: This includes both legal and de facto spouses. For superannuation purposes, a de facto spouse can be of the same or opposite sex.
  • Children: This encompasses biological children, stepchildren, and adopted children. It’s essential to note that adult children can also be considered dependents under specific circumstances.
  • Financial Dependents: These are individuals who rely on you for financial support. It could be a parent, a sibling, or even a friend. The key is that they must be significantly financially reliant on you.
  • Interdependency Relationships: This is a unique category. Two individuals are in an interdependency relationship if they have a close personal relationship, live together, and provide each other with financial and domestic support. This can include long-term housemates or an adult child caring for an aging parent.

Tax Treatment of Superannuation Death Benefits

The tax treatment of superannuation death benefits can be complex, especially for expats. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Tax-Free Component: This portion of the death benefit is always tax-free, regardless of the beneficiary.
  • Taxable Component: The tax rate on this component depends on whether the beneficiary is a dependent for tax purposes. For tax-dependent beneficiaries, this component is tax-free. For non-dependents, it’s taxed at 15%, plus the Medicare levy.
  • For Australian Expats: If you’re an Australian expat, the tax treatment can vary based on the country of residence and any tax treaties in place. It’s crucial to consult with a tax professional familiar with both Australian and overseas tax laws.

Considerations for Australian Expats

Being an Australian expat introduces unique challenges and considerations when it comes to superannuation death benefit nominations. Beyond the complexities of tax treatments and local laws, here are some more aspects you should be aware of:

  • Duration of Overseas Stay: The length of your stay abroad can influence your superannuation. Some policies might have specific clauses related to extended overseas stays, which could impact the distribution of your death benefits.
  • Jurisdictional Differences: Not all countries recognise Australian superannuation in the same way. Some might treat it as a trust, while others might view it as a pension or retirement fund. Understanding these differences is crucial to ensure that your beneficiaries aren’t caught off guard.
  • Repatriation of Funds: Transferring funds internationally can be a complex process, with various fees and regulations. It’s essential to know how your superannuation death benefits will be repatriated to beneficiaries living abroad.
  • Cultural Considerations: In some cultures, discussing death and inheritance is taboo. If you’re living in such a country, it’s essential to approach the topic delicately, ensuring that your wishes are communicated without causing discomfort or misunderstanding.
  • Impact on Other Assets: Your superannuation isn’t the only asset to consider. If you have property, investments, or other assets in your country of residence, you’ll need to understand how your superannuation death benefits might impact the distribution of these assets.
  • Local Financial Advice: While Australian financial advisors are well-versed in local regulations, it’s beneficial to consult with a financial advisor in your country of residence. They can provide insights into local nuances and help align your superannuation plans with other financial strategies.
  • Review Frequency: Given the dynamic nature of international regulations and the potential for changes in personal circumstances, it’s advisable for expats to review their superannuation death benefit nominations more frequently than those residing in Australia.
  • Potential Double Taxation: Depending on the country of residence, there’s a risk of double taxation – once in the country of residence and once in Australia. While Australia has double taxation agreements with many countries, it’s crucial to be aware of potential tax obligations in both jurisdictions.
  • Estate Planning Integration: Ensure that your superannuation death benefit nominations are integrated into your broader estate plan. This includes wills, powers of attorney, and other estate planning tools, both in Australia and your country of residence.
  • Impact of Currency Exchange Rates: Currency exchange rates can fluctuate significantly. When planning, consider potential scenarios where the Australian dollar might be strong or weak compared to the currency of your country of residence. This can impact the value of the death benefits your beneficiaries receive.

By taking these considerations into account, you can navigate the complexities of superannuation death benefit nominations as an Australian expat more effectively, ensuring that your wishes are honoured and your beneficiaries are well taken care of.


Navigating the world of superannuation death benefit nominations can be complex, but with the right knowledge, you can make informed decisions. Remember, it’s not just about securing your financial assets; it’s about ensuring peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

So, take a moment today to review your nominations. And if you ever need guidance, know that experts are just a call away, ready to assist you in safeguarding your hard-earned assets.

Ally Wealth Management is the trusted ally in finance for Australians at home and across the globe. As both Australian expats and residents, the founders of Ally have a unique understanding of the common personal financial challenges faced.

Book your complimentary appointment with our team at Ally Wealth Management to discuss how we can help you to achieve your financial goals.

Ally Wealth Management Pty Ltd is a Corporate Authorised Representative of Sentry Advice Pty Ltd ABN 77 103 642 888. Sentry Advice holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) No. 227 748.

General Advice Warning: The information contained herein is of a general nature only and does not constitute personal advice. You should not act on any recommendation without considering your personal needs, circumstances, and objectives. We recommend you obtain professional financial advice specific to your circumstances.

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