Different meanings of ‘dependant’ for superannuation and tax purposes

September 4, 2023 | Robyn Bull

On a person’s death, their superannuation benefits can only be paid directly to one or more ‘dependants’ as defined for superannuation purposes, unless they are paid to the deceased’s legal personal representative to be distributed in accordance with the deceased’s Will.

Super death benefits can be tax-free to the extent that they are paid (either directly or indirectly) to persons who are ‘dependants’ for tax purposes.

However, the meaning of ‘dependant’ differs slightly for superannuation and tax purposes.  For superannuation purposes, a ‘dependant’ of the deceased comprises:

However, for tax purposes, a ‘dependant’ (or ‘death benefits dependant’) of the deceased includes their spouse or former spouse (including de facto spouse) and only children under the age of 18.

Therefore, super death benefits generally cannot be paid directly to a former spouse, as they are not a dependant for super purposes.

Also, while a child of any age is a dependant for super purposes, only children under the age of 18 are dependants for tax purposes.  This means that, while a child of any age may receive super death benefits directly, those benefits will generally only be tax-free if the child is under 18.

Editor: If you are thinking about estate planning with your superannuation, please contact our office.