Prepare for a future beyond you

My life-changing accident reinforced the need to have a plan for my financial affairs should I not have survived.

By John Wasiliev - 3 min 40 secs read

A little about John

John Wasiliev writes on personal finance specialising in superannuation and self managed super funds, managed funds and trusts.

Recently I passed a milestone in my life that I may not have if luck had not been on my side. It was the seventh anniversary of my survival of a life-changing motor vehicle accident that left me in a wheelchair.

While this totally changed my life, I consider myself lucky because the initial medical expectation after the accident was that I would likely not survive the hour-long emergency helicopter flight that rushed me to hospital. To put it bluntly, I was expected to die within an hour of the accident.

But thanks to the medical treatment I received, I did survive and since then have been fortunate enough to be able to continue my life as a personal finance writer, as well as a husband, father and grandfather.

What the experience highlighted to me—as well as to those around me—was not only that I do like being alive but also that our death is something we can’t predict.

Wake-up call

One aspect that my seven-month stint recovering in hospital brought home was the need to have a plan in place to deal with my financial affairs should I not have survived. Fortunately, I did have one.

When we do die, if we have made the effort of saving for our retirement, we may leave quite a valuable asset behind in the form of a superannuation death benefit. That’s in addition to other assets we might have accumulated during our lifetime.

As far as organising our financial affairs are concerned, there are two ways of doing this: an easy way and a hard way.

The easy way

If we prepare properly, we will have what is known as a binding death benefit nomination ( on our website or on the Nationwide Super website) that details how we want our superannuation to be dealt with should we die. For our other assets, we will have prepared a will that clearly outlines how we’d like our possessions and assets divided. In my case, I have nominated my wife as my superannuation beneficiary.

The hard way

The hard way is to not have a death benefit nomination or a will. A surprisingly large number of us don’t have a will—estimates from various government and university studies suggest that it’s as many as three or four in 10 people.

In superannuation, a binding death-benefit nomination is a set of instructions a member gives their fund that directs where they would like any super that remains on their death to go. It’s the superannuation equivalent of a will and can be quite controversial if it isn’t correctly prepared and regularly updated should your circumstances change.

One positive aspect of belonging to an established super fund is that their trustees will often encourage you to nominate a beneficiary who will receive your super when you die. It is important to prepare such directions while you are still ‘on the ball’ and able to carefully consider what you want to happen.

Need to know

When preparing nominations, there are some interesting aspects everyone should be aware of.

  • Both individual beneficiaries and your estate (i.e., legal personal representative) can have super paid directly to them from your fund.
  • For your beneficiary to inherit your super in the most effective way, they must be financially dependent on you. Effectively this means they are allowed to receive your super with tax concessions with the best concession being that they can inherit all your super tax free.

Definition of a dependant

The most obvious financial dependant is your spouse or partner, which can include a de facto or a same sex partner.

Children under 18 are automatically dependants and so are adult children who are financially dependent on their parents for health or medical reasons.

Arguably the least understood category of potential dependants in a binding death nomination is anyone who comes under the definition of having an ‘interdependency relationship’ with you.

Such a relationship occurs between two people where they have a close personal relationship, and they live together. I’ve known people in this situation who weren’t aware that this right existed.

While one or each of them can provide the other with financial support, of equal importance is that one or each of them provides the other with domestic support and personal care. Other factors such as the duration the relationship exists plus the ownership, use and acquisition of any property shared by those in the relationship put more ‘meat on the bones’ of an interdependency relationship.

How much mutual and emotional commitment there is to a shared life is another consideration, as well as how the relationship is presented publicly, especially any evidence that suggests the parties intend the relationship to be permanent and not just one of mere convenience.

Interdependency is a relationship that goes beyond one that exists between friends and flatmates that is not consistent with the support and care necessary for a ‘close personal relationship’.

The only certainty when it comes to death is that it will happen. The best we can do is to have an up-to-date binding death benefit nomination and a legal will to ensure our assets are distributed as we wish when the inevitable eventually occurs.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of Russell Investments.

Issued by Total Risk Management Pty Ltd ABN 62 008 644 353, AFSL 238790 (TRM) as the trustee of the Russell Investments Master Trust ABN 89 384 753 567. Resource Super and Nationwide Super are divisions of the Russell Investments Master Trust. This article provides general information only and has not been prepared having regard to your specific objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making an investment decision, you need to consider whether this information is appropriate to your objectives, financial situation and needs. The information has been compiled from sources considered to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. Any examples have been included for illustrative purposes only and should not be relied upon for the purpose of making an investment decision. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) can be obtained by phoning 1800 555 667 or by visiting russellinvestments.com.au or for Nationwide Super by phoning 1800 025 241 or visiting nationwidesuper.com.au. Any potential investor should consider the latest PDS in deciding whether to acquire, or to continue to hold, an investment in any Russell Investments product. The Target Market Determinations for the Russell Investments Master Trust are available on our website. The Financial Services Guide for the Russell Investments Master Trust is available on our website or on the Nationwide Super website.

Russell Investment Financial Solutions Pty Ltd ABN 84 010 799 041, AFSL 229850 (RIFS) is the provider of MyTracker and the financial product advice provided via GoalTracker Plus. TRM and RIFS are part of Russell Investments. Russell Investments or its associates, officers or employees may have interests in the financial products referred to in this document by acting in various roles including broker or adviser, and may receive fees, brokerage or commissions for acting in these capacities. In addition, Russell Investments or its associates, officers or employees may buy or sell the financial products as principal or agent. If you decide to purchase or vary a financial product, Russell Investments and/or other companies within the Russell Investments group of companies will receive fees and other benefits, which will be a dollar amount or percentage on the value of your investments and/or your insurance fees. You can ask us for more details. General financial product advice is provided by RIFS or Link Advice Pty Ltd (Link Advice) ABN 36 105 811 836, AFSL 258145. Limited personal financial product advice is provided by Link Advice.

This work is copyright 2022. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process, nor may any other exclusive right be exercised, without the permission of Russell Investments.