Trustees need help with ATSI death benefit payments

Some super funds have admitted that awareness levels of indigenous kinship structures in the superannuation industry aren’t as developed as they could be, although measures such as mechanisms to help trustees identify members as indigenous could help improve this.

In a submission to the Treasury’s discussion paper on superannuation bunding death benefit nominations and kinship structures, members of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) also called for better communication with indigenous members around super death benefits and improved awareness within the industry of the kinship structures of within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) communities. They felt this could help trustees better distribute benefits according to kinship relationships.

Introducing more consistent protocols to assist indigenous people with proving their identity and family relationships would further assist, as would the establishment of processes to enable the member, or others, to alert trustees that family violence meant the death benefit shouldn’t be paid.

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The submission also called for regulators and legislators to play a greater role in improving the flexibility and knowledge trustees had when considering kinship relationships.

“This could be achieved through consultative and appropriate guidance and support from regulators (APRA in particular) for trustees and other decision-making bodies (such as AFCA) to address the existing challenges in distributing superannuation benefits created by differing interpretations of the legal requirements,” the submission said.

“This could include guidance from APRA as to the interpretation and application of definitions of dependant, kinship structures, financial dependence and interdependency.”

Additionally, the Government could prescribe common terminology to words such as ‘family’ that impact death benefit determinations to make them more in-line with indigenous kinship structures, and extend the decision frameworks used by Government agencies such as Centrelink when determining family payments to the public.

On the topic of Centrelink, members contributing to the submission also suggested that trustees were given access to relevant information about payments and claims held by the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink when an ATSI fund member passed away.

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