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Why you should nominate a beneficiary

Super isn’t automatically part of your estate under Australian law.

Nominating a beneficiary takes less than half an hour and can save the people close to you much stress.

Key points

  • Super isn’t part of your estate under Australian law. You’ll need to nominate a beneficiary through your super fund.
  • A beneficiary is someone you nominate to receive your super and life insurance money after you die. The money is paid minus any applicable fees and taxes.
  • Some super funds won’t let you nominate a beneficiary, for example, if you’re part of a defined benefit fund.
  • The way your super will be distributed is different to other financial assets.
  • If you don’t nominate a beneficiary, your fund will most likely pay the money to one or more of your dependants. If you have no dependants, it’s normally paid to your estate.

Who you can nominate as a beneficiary

Super can generally only be paid to people who are your dependants or to your Legal Personal Representative (the executor or administrator of your estate). 

Dependants include:  

  • your spouse or de facto spouse
  • your children (including step and adopted children of your spouse)
  • a person who lives with you in a close personal relationship and depends on you financially. They may provide you with:
    • domestic support and
    • personal care

You can’t nominate a friend or other relative to receive your super money, but you can make arrangements for your super to be paid to your Legal Personal Representative. Your Will would then determine who your super will be paid to.

Understanding binding and non-binding nominations

The difference between these types of nominations is important. It may change who gets your money.

Binding nomination

If there is a valid binding death benefit nomination on your account at the time of your death, the Trustee is required by law to pay those beneficiaries.

When you make a binding nomination, you also need to decide if you want it to be:

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Lapsing Non-lapsing
  • this nomination expires three years after you make it
  • you'll need to reconfirm it before it expires
  • your super fund will let you know before it expires so you can reconfirm it, unless you wish to change or revoke it
  • this is a permanent nomination unless you revoke it
  • you can make a new nomination in future, at any time.

Binding nomination claims are usually paid out sooner than:

  • Non-binding nomination claims, or
  • Where there's no nomination.

To make a binding nomination, you’ll need to complete a paper form.  The form will need to be signed and witnessed and returned to Aware Super. It’s a manual process and can’t be done online.

Non-binding nomination

This type of nomination will be considered but isn’t legally binding. The trustee of your super fund will decide who gets your money. New non-binding nominations are no longer available through your Aware Super account but you may still have one active on your account if you set this up in the past.

Reversionary beneficiary nomination

This type of beneficiary nomination only applies to income streams from retirement accounts. 

You can only nominate:

  • Your spouse, or
  • De facto spouse

This means your beneficiary will receive your pension payments. They'll be paid to them in the same amount and frequency as they were paid to you, until the balance runs out. There is a transfer balance cap1 that applies to reversionary beneficiary nominations.

Make a reversionary beneficiary nomination.

1. The transfer balance cap is the maximum amount you can transfer and hold in tax-free retirement phase accounts

How to nominate a beneficiary

Decide who you want to give your super to, and if you want to make a non-lapsing or lapsing binding nomination.

Log on to Member Online > Activities and inbox > Beneficiaries

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  • you can make a new nomination online at any time
  • you can update or cancel your non-lapsing nomination online at any time.
  • you can start a lapsing nomination online, but you’ll need to:
    • print the document
    • have it signed by 2 witnesses
    • and return it to the fund.


Completing a binding lapsing or reversionary nomination form

Send the form to us:

Aware Super   
Melbourne VIC 3001

You’ll need to make a separate nomination for every Aware Super account you have.

More than one beneficiary

To leave your super to more than one beneficiary you’ll need to complete a form. You can tell us the percentage of the money you would like each person to receive. 

It’s important to make sure the percentages add up to 100% or the nomination isn’t valid. 

For example, to split your money between three beneficiaries this would be 34% for one, and 33% for the others. See the table below for examples of valid and invalid nomination percentages.

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Invalid nomination   Valid nomination  
Beneficiary Percentage Beneficiary Percentage
Person 1 33.3% Person 1 34%
Person 2 33.3% Person 2 33%
Person 3 33.3% Person 3 33%
Total 99.9% Total 100%

How beneficiaries are paid

Dependants can receive death benefits as a lump sum or an income stream.  
Non-dependants can only be paid a lump sum. 

There may be tax implications for someone you nominate who is not your dependant for tax purposes. Someone can be a dependant under superannuation law but not a dependant for tax purposes (for example, an adult child). It’s important to get tax advice from a professional.

When to review your nominations

Staying financially organised includes reviewing your super beneficiaries every few years. It’s a good idea to do it after life events such as marriage, children, grandchildren, divorce or illness.  

If your nomination has lapsed or is about to, your super fund will send you a reminder to update it.

You’ll see an alert on your Aware Super statement reminding you to check your beneficiaries. 

Things to consider

  • Make sure your Will is up to date when you’re working out your super beneficiary nominations, especially if you plan to nominate your Legal Personal Representative.
  • Don’t forget to tell your beneficiaries you've nominated them. Give your fund details to them.
  • There’s a chance your super could go to someone you don't intend if you don’t have a valid binding or reversionary nomination at the time of your death. Make sure you understand the rules around the different types of nominations.
  • How your super is paid out after you die can depend on the type of super fund.
  • There may be tax implications for someone you nominate who is not your dependant for tax purposes. Learn more on the ATO website.
  • If you need to make a Will, we can help. Make an appointment to speak to one of our Estate planning advisers.
  • You can also get help from one of our financial planners on general financial matters. Book an appointment.

Frequently asked questions

No, they receive the payout from your super fund and include that money in the estate. It’s then distributed in accordance with your will.

You can nominate your legal personal representative. The money will be distributed according to your Will.

The trustee of your super fund will decide who your money goes to if you don’t make a nomination. If you have made a non-binding nomination, this will be used as a guide only. The trustee's decision will be made in accordance with superannuation law and fund rules. If you don't have a binding or reversionary beneficiary, it could delay your super being paid out. 

It will mean extra paperwork for those close to you. It will also mean added stress, increased costs and potentially unintended outcomes. Your super fund may need to investigate further.

Where to next?

Simple advice at no cost

Take advantage of simple financial advice over the phone or virtually. Our superannuation advisers can help with questions about your Aware Super account.

Log in to check your beneficiaries

You can nominate a beneficiary or check your beneficiaries through your online account.

Book an Estate Planning advice appointment

Get your affairs in order with one of our Estate Planning specialists.