Donna Lee Powell, Founder DLP Life Design, AFA Member. Original Article as published in Your Best Interests Digital Magazine, May 2020

Death happens to all of us, but an unexpected death can add a huge financial burden to already grieving family members. Planning for the worst can help see your loved ones through this difficult time.

Living through a Pandemic is a first for most of us. It is a reality check in many ways, showing us that life as we know it can be changed in an instant. It has been changed in ways that we have no control over or even by no fault of our own. We are powerless by what is unfolding around us.

This feeling of overwhelm and loss of control takes me back to almost 5 years ago when my fit and healthy husband passed away suddenly when he was just 39. He had been my partner for almost 22 years.

Until this time, I thought that I had complete control over my life and that I could plan and prepare for anything. After all I was a Financial Adviser so had mapped out and planned my future right down to when I was retiring and on how much income!

We had some insurances in place, but not enough; and although we had a current Will in place, we had not updated Brett’s Binding Nomination on his Employers Industry Fund. These two critical points, and almost “carelessness” on my part, caused me additional grief and stress at a time when I should have been focusing on my two children whom were 10 and 12 at the time. I guess I should have known better.

I would like to share with you some key considerations that I have learned over the years both personally and from my experiences of working with clients in a hope that you will not pass on unnecessary burdens to your loved ones when you die.

  1. Talk about death and dying with your family and loved ones
    • Talk about what you would like to happen at your funeral, who would you like there and what music you would like to have played?
    • Would you like to be buried or cremated? if you would prefer to be cremated where would you like your ashes scattered?
    • Do you want to plan or pre-pay your funeral or would you like to purchase a funeral bond to save your loved ones this expense at an already difficult time? Talk to your Adviser about this – we may be able to assist you obtain more Centrelink benefits at the same time.
  1. Know exactly what assets you have and understand how they will be treated when you die
    • Are they in your own name and therefore can be dispersed through your Will?
    • Are they in joint names automatically passing to the other person upon death? Are you ok with this?
    • What type of assets are they? Could they be divided easily to the beneficiaries?
    • What tax implications will be payable by your estate to disperse your assets?
    • Could you put any strategies in place now BEFORE you die that could save your loved one’s taxes WHEN you die?

  1. Understand how your debts and guarantees will impact your loved ones when you die
    • Will the assets you hold be able to payout all the liabilities that you hold?
    • If your loans are in joint names (joint and several), can the other person afford to service the debt when you are no longer there?
    • Have you personally guaranteed loans in your business or in another capacity? What impact will this have on your estate?
    • Have you given a guarantee to help your children or a parent out? Are you aware of the implications if this on your estate if this is called upon after you pass away?
    • Is the person to whom you have provided the guarantee a beneficiary of your estate?
    • If the guarantee is called upon, does it affect the other beneficiaries of your estate?
  1. Is your business protected if you unexpectantly die?
    • When you set up your business structures, have you allowed for what would happens when you die?
    • Have your business structures been referenced and included in your Will? Are you happy with these outcomes?
    • Have you consulted a qualified Financial Adviser about protecting your business and family from your death? Is the amount of cover adequate?

  1. Where will your superannuation go upon death and will it be taxed?

    • Your superannuation does not automatically form part of your Will
    • You should nominate whom you would like your super to go to
    • To make a valid death benefit nomination, you can nominate one or more of your ‘dependents’ under super law. Super law considers a person to be dependent, if at the time of death, they were:
      1. Your spouse or de facto spouse, including same sex
      2. One of your children of any age
  • In an interdependency relationship. That is, they live together with you, have a close personal relationship, and one or each of you provides the other with financial support, domestic support, and personal care.
  • When choosing your beneficiary, it is also important to understand that the super law and tax law have different rules for who is deemed to be a dependent. This effectively means that the amount of tax paid from the super death benefit depends on whether the beneficiary is a ‘tax dependent’ and whether your super is paid as a lump sum, income stream or a mixture of both. This is a complex area and it is important that you seek advice from a qualified Financial Adviser.
  • If you do not make a nomination under your superannuation, the Trustee of your super fund is NOT required to take your wishes into account.
  • You can make a “nomination” or a “binding nomination
    1. A Nomination effectively means you tell the Trustee of your super fund that you would like the benefits to go to your nominated person however they are not bound to pay it to this person.

From my experiences, this type of nomination takes the longest time to get paid out and often the clients wish is disregarded. I have had instances where the Trustee will often track down eligible claimants, including estranged ex-spouses or estranged children to include them as part of the claim.

  1. A Binding Nomination effectively means the Trustee of your super fund is effectively bound by your instructions. This document is required to be witnessed by 2 adult witnesses that are not beneficiaries. Binding Nominations can also expire and are required to be updated regularly.
  • Alternatively, you could nominate your Estate or Personal Legal Representative and have your funds dispersed in accordance to your wishes outlined in your Will.
  1. Ensure you have quality cover and enough insurance cover in place
    • It’s important that you can talk to your partner about what they would like to see happen if one of you were to die. How would this impact them and your children?
    • When someone dies, it is important that your family are not forced to make any significant changes during that first year while they are still coming to terms with the loss.
    • Have you nominated a beneficiary to receive your life insurance benefits?
    • Does your superannuation have any life insurance in place for you? This will form part of your superannuation balance on death so the above points about a super nomination is very important.
  1. Does your Will carry out everything you need it to do upon death?
    • Do you know and understand how your Will, will distribute to your beneficiaries?
    • Will your beneficiaries accept your decision? If not, what measures have you put in place to ensure that there is minimal disruption to your family in the event of a dispute?
    • Have you chosen an Executor who has emotional intelligence, is diligent, trustworthy, able to collaboratively work with others while possibly grieving?
    • Where is the original document kept? Is your Executor aware of where its kept?
  1. Organise your digital world
    • Be mindful of your digital life to allow family access to this part of your life when you have passed away
    • Things to consider are internet banking, access to superannuation and investment accounts, frequent flyer points, social media accounts just to name a few
    • There are many online services that allow you to store and protect your digital world in one place. I use LastPass both personally and for my business.
    • Share your master password with someone you trust, maybe the executor of your Estate and keep these details with the original copy of your Will.

These key considerations should not be a set and forget solution. They should be reviewed regularly, particularly if your circumstances change.

My circumstances changed unexpectedly at a time I felt I was prepared, yet my experience and that of the many clients I have seen have shown me that you can never be too prepared.  

In life you may be poor or rich, but death is the great equalizer. … Howsoever you live, it makes no difference; death happens equally. In life, equality is impossible. Become aware of it, contemplate it. Rajnessh

Donna Lee Powell and the team at DLP Life Design provide advice to clients all over Australia. We welcome any questions or queries you may have about this article. We would also welcome the opportunity to assist you with your advice needs, no matter what your stage in life.

We can be contacted at or 08 6110 7426 or through the contact form on our website at