Setting up an SMSF – What do you need to consider?

Setting up an SMSF can be complicated.  Not getting it right can materially affect your financial situation and retirement plans.

The first question you need to be sure about is whether an SMSF is the right fit.  Seeking specialised financial advice can help you determine this answer. Some considerations include:

Low balances

You must ensure you have an appropriate superannuation balance before considering an SMSF. While a low balance can be a red flag, it is not always a barrier to entry.  Establishing an SMSF with a small balance may not be in your best interests. This is because SMSFs tend to be more cost-efficient with larger balances. Therefore, before rolling over your superannuation balance to an SMSF, you should establish and justify that by doing so you are likely to end up in a better position in retirement.

Motivation

You must also understand your motivation for establishing an SMSF. The most common motivation SMSF trustees indicate is control. Control of an SMSF allows individuals to have a wide range of investment choice, flexibility and engagement with their superannuation. However, superannuation law is complex and you need to ensure your ambitions are allowed under the law and will be able to achieved in an SMSF.

Costs and time

SMSFs incur a wide range of costs in establishment and the day to day running of the fund. Ensure you are across the estimated establishment, accounting and audit costs that will be incurred by your SMSF. Speak with your advisers so you are across all other incidental costs, which unlike large super funds generally occur with fixed rates rather than as a proportion of your balance.

SMSFs also require dedicated attention from trustees which will take time out of your daily life to manage. Understanding from the outset your legislated responsibilities and obligations before establishing an SMSF is important.

Establishment process

Once you have decided that an SMSF is right for you, the process of establishing the fund can commence. A Specialist SMSF adviser is the best person to help you with this process which generally involves choosing a trustee structure, selecting a trust deed, completing the ATO registration,  opening a unique fund bank account, getting an electronic service address and arranging for rollovers to the fund to occur.

Investment Strategy and Insurance

Upon establishment you must also create an investment strategy which must be regularly reviewed.

Your investment strategy should be in writing and must consider:

•             Diversification (investing in a range of assets and asset classes).

•             The liquidity of the fund’s assets (how easily they can be converted to cash to meet fund expenses).

•             The fund’s ability to pay benefits (when members retire) and other costs it incurs.

•             The members’ needs and circumstances (for example, their age and retirement needs).

•             Whether to hold insurance in your SMSF.

Property investment

It is also common for SMSF trustees to be motivated by investing in property when establishing an SMSF. You should be sure that any investment in property, particularly when gearing is involved, is appropriate for your circumstances. Holding properties in an SMSF can also require some complex structures to ensure the law is being followed and specialist advice may be needed before making an investment choice. A lack of diversification, low balances and inappropriate property investments can have a detrimental impact on your retirement savings.

How can we help?

If you are considering an SMSF, please feel free to give me a call to arrange a time to meet so that we can discuss your particular requirements and circumstances in more detail.

Superannuation death benefits – Review succession plans

1 July 2021, saw the Transfer Balance Cap (TBC) indexed for the first time to $1.7 million from the original $1.6 million limit which was introduced on 1 July 2017. Indexation of the TBC means there is no longer a single cap that applies to all individuals. Instead, every member has their own personal TBC of between $1.6 million and $1.7 million, depending on their circumstances. If you are already in receipt of a pension, it is important to review your personal TBC and seek help if you unsure how to calculate, or locate, your personal TBC

The TBC not only imposes a limit on the amount of capital that you can transfer to the retirement phase of super, but it also has an impact on what happens to your superannuation when you die. The $1.7 million TBC applies to pensions paid to your dependants after you die (called death benefit pensions or reversionary pensions) meaning it has a substantial impact on estate planning. 

When it comes to the TBC, the main issues that you need to plan for in the event of death include:

  • If your death benefit will be paid as a death benefit pension, your beneficiary’s TBC will be relevant in determining how much can be paid as a pension to them. Any excess death benefit above their TBC must be paid as a lump sum to them.  This limits the amount of money that can now be retained within the superannuation environment upon your death.
  • Where your dependant has already used some of their TBC, you may need to consider strategies which maximise the amount of your benefits that can remain in the SMSF on your death and minimize the amount that would need to be paid to your beneficiaries as a lump sum.
  • The special rules which delay when the reversionary pension counts towards the new recipient’s TBC and the differences between how reversionary and non-reversionary pensions are counted towards the new recipient’s TBC.
  • The special rules that operate to modify the TBC of a child in receipt of a death benefit pension to ensure that their personal TBC is not exhausted.
  • The ability for a recipient of a death benefit pension to rollover the pension to another super fund (note, to satisfy the regulatory rules, a new death benefit pension must be commenced in the new fund or the amount must be withdrawn from the superannuation environment as a lump sum death benefit).

Given the significant shift in the landscape with respect to SMSFs and estate planning, we also strongly recommend that trustees have their SMSF trust deed reviewed to ensure maximum flexibility when dealing with excess TBC amounts, rollover of death benefits, reversionary pensions and child pensions. This should be done alongside the review of any binding death benefit nomination(s) you have in place to ensure that they too are valid and provide the certainty in how your death benefits will be dealt with upon your death.

The payment and tax treatment of death benefits paid from an SMSF has traditionally been a complex area, with the need to obtain advice from a specialist. With the recent introduction of the TBC, the need for specialist advice has never been more important.