The secret of SMSF succession
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Peter Townsend is principal of Townsends Business and Corporate Lawyers.
After her husband's death, the wife appoints her two sons as her executors and gives them jointly the shares in the corporate trustee of the super fund.
The corporate trustee's constitution has a common clause making the first registered co-owner the one to exercise the vote attached to that share at a shareholder's meeting. The first registered son votes the shares to remove his brother and to take the death benefit for himself. Outrageous? Dastardly?
Certainly, but it could have been avoided. That's what good SMSF [self-managed superannuation fund] succession planning and associated estate planning is all about.
Financial advisers are involved at all stages of the life of an SMSF: advising on whether to establish the fund, helping with the administration and investments of the fund throughout its life, providing much needed advice when pensions are payable, and finally assisting with what is to happen to the fund on the death of its members.
The old adage of starting with the end in mind dictates that advisers must engage their clients in efficient SMSF succession planning even before the fund is established. Good succession planning is part of the decision-making when setting up the fund.
The client's need for succession planning gives advisers the opportunity to further develop their value proposition within their expertise. SMSF succession planning needs careful consideration, both initially and over time as the client's circumstances develop and change, and it is the continuity of this support that helps to bond the client to the adviser and further enhance the adviser's importance to their client in this area.
Yet this is a concept many advisers are yet to grasp. SMSF succession planning is often overlooked or under-considered by clients and advisers alike and there are few SMSFs that couldn't benefit from a well-thought-out, documented and implemented succession plan.
In the post-commission Future of Financial Advice reform environment, SMSF succession planning constitutes a fertile area of practice for SMSF advisers looking for ways to add value to clients and bolster professional revenue.