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Super Can Be Confusing, But What Happens If You Develop Dementia?

Superannuation can be confusing at the best of times for the average Australian. However, for those experiencing the effects of dementia, or living with those affected by it, access to their superannuation can become a financial issue of great magnitude.

Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a term that describes symptoms associated with more than 100 different diseases characterised by the impairment of brain function. The most common type of dementia that is often encountered is Alzheimer’s disease.

It occurs more frequently in the elder demographic than in the younger population but is indiscriminate in who it affects. However, with an increasing number of people looking at accessing their superannuation, and a rise in the number of Australians impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s best to be prepared with the knowledge of what you must do.

When it comes to your superannuation, if your circumstances mark you as an eligible applicant, you may be able to claim a lump sum from your superannuation’s fund’s total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance.

You may be under the assumption that to access the benefits from TPD, you need to have suffered an accident, a workplace injury or have a critical terminal illness. However, you can claim for TPD and monthly income protection benefits from your super fund if you have any type of long-term illness that affects your ability to do your job (including young-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia).

You should get total and permanent disablement from your life insurance provider for a broad range of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or dementia-related symptoms, including significant permanent impairment, loss of independence, cognitive decline, and other mental health effects.

Your life insurance provider will consider several factors when deciding whether you’re eligible to make a claim, including:

  • Whether your claim can be supported by a doctor or medical specialist.
  • Whether you’re receiving any treatment for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and the frequency of this treatment.
  • Whether your early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be considered permanent.
  • How your capacity to work has been impaired or will be impaired by your symptoms as your disease progresses.
  • Whether you may be able to take on an adjusted job role or work in a new career.

If you successfully claim TPD insurance for early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia, you should be given early access to your super. This money will be paid in a lump sum and will cover your day-to-day costs for the rest of your life. The amount of money you receive will depend on your specific circumstances.

What About If An SMSF Trustee Is Affected By Dementia/Alzheimer’s? 

In the case of an SMSF, legally, the loss of mental capacity for a trustee of an SMSF means that they can no longer make decisions as a trustee of the fund. The critical period for an SMSF is the time prior to diagnosis when the trustee may be making or not making decisions that would be in the best interest of the members of the fund.

There are four options that the trustees of this SMSF have:

  • They can retain the SMSF and appoint additional trustees to the fund who share trustee responsibility as they age (which would typically occur with adult children joining the fund).
  • The trustees of the SMSF can appoint an individual to take on trustee responsibility on his behalf under an enduring power of attorney.
  • The trustees of the SMSF can close the SMSF and rollover the fund to a public offer fund, with all ongoing administration and compliance of the fund reverting to a third-party trustee.
  • The SMSF trustee can convert the fund into a Small APRA Fund (SAF). A SAF offers the flexibility of an SMSF, without trustee responsibilities as an independent trustee is appointed to manage the trustee responsibilities on an individual fund basis and on an agreed fee basis.

It is most important to remember that if you have not appointed someone as your enduring power of attorney and you do lose mental capacity, then it is too late and you will need to apply to the court. It is always important to seek advice about appointing someone as your enduring power of attorney.

If you’re someone who often finds it difficult to make large lump sum payments for goods or services, you may want to consider looking into “Buy Now Pay Later” services.

Buy now pay later essentially means that, rather than paying in a full lump sum payment for a product or services rendered, there may be an option to pay through instalments of a certain amount over a set period to make the sum of the full amount in total. This method should allow you to pay in full for the product or service without overly straining your finances – you pay back what you can, as agreed upon when you begin the buy now pay later service.

Some popular buy now pay later services include Afterpay, Zip Pay, Brightepay, and some credit card networks such as  Mastercard and Visa, can offer buy now pay later arrangements.

Though it can be a convenient, immediate solution, it may be challenging to juggle the necessary repayments with other financial commitments. It’s not always the most appropriate method for people, and you should bear in mind your situation and ability in paying back the amounts. 

Before you sign up, keep in mind: 

  • It becomes easier to overspend with buy now pay later services, so know your limits on what you can and can’t afford.
  • You will be charged fees and costs to use the service, which can add up to a princely sum in and of itself.
  • Keeping track of your payments can be tricky if you’ve signed up for multiple services.
  • It could affect your loan applications for a car or mortgage as lenders consider buy now pay later spending just as much as your credit score.
  • Late repayments can appear on your credit report, which affects your ability to borrow money in the future.
  • Layby can be a cheaper alternative to buy now pay later, with no account-keeping or late fees to consider

If you are someone who could make use of BNPL services, you may wish to:

  • Ensure that when using the BNPL service, you stick to a set limit on what you spend so that you can comfortably pay it back later. 
  • Aim only to have one BNPL account at a time to manage payments through, rather than confuse yourself with multiple payments across different providers.
  • Always budget for bills, loan payments and BNPL payments, and 
  • Rather than use your credit card for payments to your BNPL account, consider linking to your debit account instead.

If you would like assistance in planning your financial future, help in managing your budget or some friendly advice, see us for a chat about what we can do for you.


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John Briggs

Jane Noller has been my accountant for the last 15 plus years. I can testify to Jane’s professionalism and expeditious manner in dealing with the day to day issues that surrounds our business accounting.

John Briggs

Registered Building Certifier