Super 'too commoditised' by industry, says lawyer

SMSF practitioners are “cheapening” superannuation as it becomes one of the fastest growing areas of litigation in Australia, according to law firm Rockwell Olivier.

Despite being one of the largest financial sectors in Australia, superannuation, and SMSFs specifically, is becoming increasingly commoditised, said managing principal at Rockwell Olivier, Peter Bobbin.

“What we need to do… is think about the future of super. Right now, my opinion is it has been commoditised far too much and it’s time to embrace, manage and deal with super properly,” Mr Bobbin said, speaking at the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) National SMSF conference in Melbourne this week.

Because of this increased commoditisation, Mr Bobbin said, “far too many” trustees are establishing SMSFs when they are not suited to a self-managed environment.

Consequently, the issue of control of an SMSF has not been adequately addressed, including control upon the death of a member and while the fund is still in operation.

“We have court case after court case where the sole issue is about who has control… You need to build that into an SMSF environment. My experience is that people are not thinking about these very issues on set up, because it’s so commoditised,” Mr Bobbin said.

“If you’re a professional involved in helping someone set up their superannuation… and you don’t help them make sure [their super] matches what their [estate planning] objectives are, and as a consequence the beneficiaries miss out, then you might be sued,” he added.

Mr Bobbin said superannuation in Australia is currently experiencing high growth in litigation.

“Lawyers [are] coaching or pitching for business; [super] is the greatest litigation growth area today,” he said.

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