Elder abuse risks flagged with increased member limit
Increasing the number of members in an SMSF may lead to greater disputes between members in a fund and may also raise the risk of members falling victim to elder abuse, warns a technical expert.
Cooper Partners head of SMSF and succession Jemma Sanderson said some SMSF clients may be thinking about bringing new members into their fund in light of the government’s announcement to extend the existing member limit.
Ms Sanderson said it is critical that these clients think carefully about the estate planning considerations and who will control the fund.
“Who controls the fund on death and does that depend on what the account balances are or who the shareholders of the company are? With more people, there’s more likely to be disputes about who’s doing what so it’s important to make sure that the structure itself ticks all the boxes from that perspective,” she said.
“I can certainly see where [problems may arise] in certain situations. [For example], you might have a Mum and Dad and it is their second marriage and they both bring in kids from either side, so it becomes a six member fund. If the Mum and Dad then split, you can imagine the sort of nightmare that could occur.”
Issues could also arise where there was one parent with four kids, for example, she said.
“If you’ve got a Mum and she has four kids and Dad has passed away and Mum is still in the fund with the kids, the kids might say ‘well we're in this fund now, let's collude so that Mum can only take her minimum pension payment out each year and we're keeping more money in the tin for us when Mum pops her clogs’,” she explained.
“Now I'm not saying that people think like that, but with elder abuse becoming more and more on the radar, those sorts of things you need to be looked at.”
These sorts of aspects need to be considered and factored in whenever an SMSF is considering more members, she said.
“Again it comes back to that control. Is it based on member balances? Does Mum have the controlling vote as opposed to the kids because she has the bulk of the benefits?”