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In most circumstances superannuation does not form part of a deceased’s estate unless there is a binding death nomination by the deceased requesting that the death benefit be paid to the estate.

What is a Binding Death Nomination (BDN)?

You can nominate who you wish to receive your death benefit. This person is referred to as the beneficiary and the nomination is referred to as your BDN.

The nominated beneficiary must be your dependant (such as your spouse and children). If you want your death benefit to go to someone who is not your dependant, you can nominate your legal personal representative as your beneficiary. This means your superannuation will form part of your estate and you can deal with it in your Will.

A valid BDN will bind the Trustee of the superannuation fund. The Trustee must follow your nomination and has no discretion as to where the death benefits are paid.

A valid BDN also cannot be challenged by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal or a Court.

Review your BDN

It is important that you review your BDN as most BDNs cease to have effect after a period of three years.

What if the deceased did not have a BDN?

If the deceased did not have a BDN the Trustee of the superannuation fund will usually pay the death benefit to people who are considered “dependants” of the deceased under the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act (Cth) 1993 and the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations (Cth) 1994 (Act).

Who are the “Dependants”?

Dependants within the meaning of the Act include:


Spouses (includes defacto or same sex partner);


Children (including, stepchildren, adopted children, adult children and ex-nuptial children);


Financial dependants; and



Two people have an interdependent relationship when:

  • They have a close personal relationship;
  • They live together;
  • One or both provide the other with financial support; and/or
  • One or both provide the other with domestic or personal care.

Applying for the Death Benefit

If the deceased has not made a BDN and you are a “dependant” within the meaning of the Act, you can make an application to the superannuation fund to receive the deceased’s death benefits.

The Trustee of the superannuation fund has the discretion to decide who should receive the deceased’s death benefit.

Challenging the decision of a Trustee to pay the death benefit

If you are not satisfied with the decision made by the Trustee we can assist you in challenging the decision.