SMSFs at risk of ‘lawyer feeding fest’
One prominent industry lawyer has expressed serious concern about the state of SMSF documentation as the dominance of new business models grows.
Managing principal of Argyle Lawyers, Peter Bobbin, doubts the ability of online document providers to confidently structure estate planning strategies for an SMSF.
“The two do not match. There is no such thing as a 'standard' non-binding or binding nomination – it just doesn’t [exist],” Mr Bobbin told SMSF Adviser.
“The average account balance in an SMSF, as in total assets, now exceeds a million. And yet somebody is promoting the idea that you spend $85 or $120 to run off a nomination document which is going to control up to $1.1 million. I think it’s ridiculous, I truly think it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it,” he said.
“The only fortunate thing about it is that in 98 per cent of cases, the general society’s morality is such that they will follow what the deceased said.”
DBA Lawyers has voiced similar concerns to SMSF Adviser.
“When you get things over the internet, to put it lightly, there can be difficulties,” said director Bryce Figot.
“There’s a lot of other things out there where you enter your data into a website that spits the documents right back at you, which raises this very nasty question about, number one, garbage in and garbage out. If the person doesn’t know what instructions to enter, they might answer things incorrectly,” he said.
Mr Figot particularly takes umbrage at models that have minimal or no input from a qualified lawyer.
“There are time savings; however, people then take it to the next level, saying ‘well, why don’t we get the documents instantly populated back at us’, and that’s where you’ve got no lawyer reviewing it,” Mr Figot says.
In a previous conversation with SMSF Adviser, Topdocs director Michael Spakman expressed confidence in the online model of SMSF documentation but warned about the inherent legal risks of incorrectly drafted documents.
“At the end of the day, they’re still legal documents, there’s still risk associated with that, and we want to be able to protect the client and make sure that what they get is fit for purpose,” Mr Spakman said.
“Their responsibility is providing advice for their client; the document provider’s responsibility is to give something fit for purpose which also they assume the risk for,” he said.