Your will does not cover the distribution of your superannuation!!!

Death’s a certainty, so what about a guarantee that our super will go where we want?

Death. Life’s only guarantee. But exactly what happens to your superannuation after you die is anything but guaranteed.

I bet many people are unaware that their super fund is basically up for grabs when they die.

You only need to look at the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal to see how fraught this area is. The vast majority of complaints are about people who are unhappy with how someone’s super fund money has been paid out — and it’s not pretty reading.

Almost anyone who had a relationship with the dead person can challenge or lodge a complaint about who gets a slice of the super fund.

And, unfortunately, many of the decisions seem to be a bit of a lottery, depending on which fund is involved, what policies the fund has and who the trustees are.

Basically, any money left in your super fund, or that is part of your super fund’s life insurance, is controlled by the trustees and they make the decision about who they pay it out to.

And, surprise, surprise, that’s where it gets messy.

What might seem to be a reasonable decision to one person can be very unreasonable to the next person — and hence we have a huge bun fight, often involving several hundred thousand dollars in each case.

According to the Tribunal, about a third of all complaints are about death payments but industry observers think this understates the real problem.

As with many issues involving personal finance, a lot of people are not given the information clearly enough so they understand the rules.

When it comes to death benefits, there are people who might not even realise they can make a claim, a complaint or get a decision changed.

But even just counting those that do get to the Tribunal, from the fraction of people who know they can make a challenge, the numbers are still pretty big.

About 50 complaints a month are about death payouts — that’s 50 families in limbo or under added stress because people they’ve never met are making decisions based on policies they’ve never heard off about who and when the money is paid out.

In many families there are also divided households, second families, step children, divorce, blended families and ... well, actually let’s just say in most family situations nothing is ever straight forward.

The death might also involve a messy dispute over the will which means there are two battles being fought, one for the will and one for the super money.

There are three options given to most fund members:

— no nomination

— a non-binding nomination

— or a binding nomination

There is still no guarantee the money will go where you want it to — even with a binding nomination, there are hurdles, such as being regularly renewed, that mean the trustees can still step in and take over the decision.

Perhaps the answer is to pay everyone’s super money into their will — at least then there will be only one bunfight instead of two.

Or perhaps we can get some decent legislation in place so we’re not all forced to live, and die, in doubt.