Wooster v Morris [2013] VSC 594

If you die leaving funds in superannuation, those funds do not automatically pass under your Will.  Many superannuation funds allow you make a binding death benefit nomination (BDBN), by which you can direct the payment of your superannuation funds to people who are “dependants” for tax purposes.

Mr Morris died leaving $1.4m in superannuation.  He left a BDBN, under which his daughters were entitled to $900,000 and his widow was entitled to $500,000.

The widow, who controlled the superannuation fund, declared the BDBN to be invalid.  She then purported to keep all the money for herself.

The daugthers brought a claim in the Supreme Court of Victoria seeking the full $900,000 under the superannuation fund.

The Court found the BDBN to be valid, and that the plaintiffs were entitled to the $900,000. 

The court arrived at this decision after reference to a “special referee”.  This is effectively a form of outsourcing which is sometimes used where there are complex or technical issues in the case.

This case demonstrates the importance of control in trust and superannuation succession.  Where there is the possibility of disagreement, alternative strategies can be employed to avoid costly disputes.