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Am I eligible for a superannuation death benefits claim?

Generally speaking, ‘death benefits’ are the money left over in a deceased person’s superannuation account. It can also include a benefit from the deceased’s life insurance policy, which is often automatically included with super policies.

After your loved one passes, the super fund assesses all claims for the death benefits. They will then distribute the death benefits to the deceased’s ‘dependents’.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Close relatives e.g. spouses, de facto partners or children under 18.
  • Anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased at the time they passed away.
  • People nominated as a beneficiary in the deceased’s superannuation or insurance policy.

Sometimes, making a death benefits claim is straightforward. But at other times, it can be more complex — particularly if there are multiple interested parties.

That’s why we strongly advise speaking to an experienced death benefits lawyer. Our lawyers will provide free legal advice tailored to your particular situation.

Starting your claim

To start a death benefits claim, you need to submit a claim form to your super fund. This must include evidence of your relationship to the deceased.

If you are the sole dependent, this process should be relatively simple. But if you suspect that other parties may make a claim, we suggest you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

An experienced lawyer will:

  • Contact the super fund and obtain all relevant policy information.
  • Prepare your claim using detailed submissions.
  • Compile evidence of your relationship to the deceased.
  • Ensure your claim meets all of the super fund's requirements.

It’s important to know that super funds have complete discretion over who receives a death benefit payout. Even if you’re a close relative or nominated on the policy, the super fund can decide to give the benefits to another dependent.

Once the super fund makes a decision, it can be much harder to secure your rightful benefits. If a decision has already been made, our lawyers can dispute it on your behalf. Over the years, we have helped many clients overturn unfair decisions.

How to dispute a decision

Once all claims have been filed, the super fund will issue a ‘preliminary decision‘, stating who should receive benefits. If you disagree with their decision, you have 28 days to lodge a dispute. The super fund then reviews all objections and makes a final decision.

If you disagree with the final decision, you can bring your dispute to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). They will review the super fund’s decision to determine whether it was reasonable. If you’re unhappy with the AFCA’s verdict, you can take your claim to court.

Whether you’re looking to lodge a dispute or have already received a final decision, we can assist. With our detailed understanding of the dispute process, we will handle all communications with the super fund and ensure you get the best result.

How long will my death benefits claim take?

Most claims are approved within 4 to 6 weeks of lodgement. However, if someone else disputes your claim, it could take anywhere from 6 to 12 months.

The exact length depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How many potential beneficiaries there are.
  • How long it takes for all parties to submit their documentation.
  • How long the super fund takes to assess every claim.
  • If the super fund requests any extra information.

Act quickly – time limits apply

It’s crucial to begin a death benefits claim as soon as possible. If other dependants or family members lodge a claim first, your entitlement to the benefits may be challenged. In some situations, you could lose the benefits altogether.

When challenging a super fund’s decision, you must file a dispute within 28 days.

If you’re outside this time limit, you still have options — just speak to our expert lawyers today. We have decades of experience with delayed claims, and can apply for a time limit extension or internal review on your behalf.

How much does a death benefit claim cost?

  • No financial risk: Your claim is covered by our No Win No Fee Guarantee, meaning you pay nothing unless we win.
  • No upfront costs: We cover every cost, including expert evidence, legal fees and admin. If your claim doesn't work out, you'll never receive a bill from us.
  • Fixed fees: We provide an exact breakdown of our fees before starting work on your case. No last minute surprises, no sticker shock.
  • 30-day risk-free trial: We offer a 30-day free trial so you can evaluate our work before committing to your claim. If you cancel anytime during this period, there's absolutely nothing to pay.
Find out more about our fees

The claims process

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the typical process for a death benefit claim:

After your loved one passes away, the first step is to notify the superannuation fund and get all necessary claim forms. If your claim involves other parties, we strongly suggest speaking to an experienced death benefits lawyer first.

Our lawyers will investigate the policy, outline your rights, and explain the best strategy for resolving your claim fast. This investigation is completely obligation-free. If you choose to work with us, we’ll start work on your claim immediately.

To support your claim, your lawyer will compile evidence of your relationship with the deceased. We will also prepare detailed submissions that apply the relevant case law to your claim.

Once completed, we’ll submit your claim to the super fund. Our experience and precision means your documents will be accurate and complete, ensuring you avoid unnecessary delays in processing the claim.

The super fund will review all claims and verify the provided information. At this time, they may also request further information. Your lawyer will handle all communication with the super fund and keep you informed of your claim’s process.

Once the assessment is complete, the super fund will send you a letter with their decision. The letter specifies who will receive the death benefits.

If the decision is unfair, your lawyer will prepare and submit new evidence and lodge a dispute. We have a track record of success in challenging determinations made by super funds.

Throughout this process, you’re still covered by our No Win No Fee guarantee.

With our 98% success rate, it’s likely you’ll get the benefit you deserve.

Once the super fund approves your claim, your lawyer will ensure you receive your payment as soon as possible.

Meet the team

Our team use their extensive experience to increase your chances of success. We’ve won many awards for our work, including ‘Compensation Law Firm of the Year 2020 GBM Global Awards.’

Daniella Dababneh
Senior Associate
  • English, Arabic
  • Superannuation, TPD, Life Insurance
Leon Monaco
Managing Partner
  • English
  • Workers Compensation, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Public Liability, Medical Negligence
Nadia Rock
  • English, Macedonian
  • Superannuation and Insurance
Caroline Sinn
  • English, Cantonese
  • Superannuation and Insurance
Meet more of the team

Frequently asked questions

Death benefits—unlike other assets—are not part of a deceased person’s estate, and cannot be distributed through a will. Instead, the balance is held in a trust, to be distributed based on the beneficiaries they have nominated.

Occasionally, however, a deceased person leaves a valid will outlining the beneficiaries to whom they would like their death benefits dispersed. The death benefits do not automatically become part of the estate but a contradictory will may influence the distribution of death benefits. It all depends on the nature of the nomination.

Binding nominations

If the deceased has made a binding nomination (that is, they’ve named their beneficiaries in a legally valid manner), this nomination will be carried out. Even if another beneficiary has been named in the will, only the binding nominations will receive the benefits.

Non-binding or non-existent nominations

In situations where a nomination is non-existent or non-binding (that is, improperly made, expired etc.), the trustee of the fund can use their discretion to disperse the benefits. They may decide to pay the benefit to the executor of the will, or to any of the deceased’s financial dependants.

At this time, the executor of the will may also apply to the Court for a grant to bring the death benefits into the estate.

In order to pursue a death benefits claim, your loved one must have held insurance cover at the date they passed away. Generally, the benefit you receive is paid according to that date.

This means if your loved one was not insured at the time, you may not have a death benefits claim. However, there are still circumstances in which you may be entitled to a claim. Underinsurance and death benefits is a complex area of law, but a specialist lawyer can help you determine if you have a claim.

That’s where our free initial consult can help. We’ll investigate your loved one’s insurance cover, determine whether or not you have a death benefits claim, and advise you on your options. If your loved one was underinsured, or if you’re unclear about their level of cover, give us a call today. We can also provide general advice on your death benefits claim.

There are certain circumstances which may allow you to claim superannuation death benefits while still alive.

In a situation where a policy holder is suffering from a terminal illness, they may be eligible for an advanced payment of a death benefit, known as a ‘terminal illness claim’. Though the exact requirements vary between funds and individual policies, a terminal illness claim is usually paid to a policy holder who is likely to pass away within the next 12 – 24 months.

A terminal illness claim is not a death benefits claim but, rather, a means of accessing a death benefits balance. It requires two doctors to certify that the individual is terminally ill, and report on their life expectancy.

Though terminal illness is the most common, there are a number of other circumstances in which you can make a death benefits claim while still alive, including financial hardship and temporary or permanent incapacity.

The majority of people who have their claims denied are unrepresented, meaning they did not seek legal advice from a qualified death benefits lawyer before starting their case. In our experience, insurers can be unfair and ungenerous to unrepresented claimants, denying claims which might otherwise have been approved.

Strong legal representation can help secure your rightful benefits. We’ll will help you obtain expert evidence, which can often make or break a case. Though crucial, this evidence can also be expensive—that’s why we pay all upfront costs, including any fees for expert reports.

Overall, an experienced death benefits lawyer will:

  • Consider your relevant policy and trust deed, and advise you on the best course of action.
  • Consider all current law and court decisions, establishing whether you fit the definition for receiving death benefits.
  • Compare your position to similar cases.
  • Implement a strong legal strategy and collate all evidence required to establish your claim.
  • Cover all upfront costs for any evidence.
  • Take care of all communication with the insurer.
  • Issue formal complaints in the event your claim is denied or delayed.

What our clients say

When you walk through our doors, our top priority is to help you as much as we can. This commitment is shown in over 200 5-star reviews.

4.8 out of 5
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Thank you for accomplishing so much in such a short time.

Great communication, empathy and understanding. My case worker Daniella was a saint, understanding and patient and always passing on any updates in record time.


Good result! We had a complicated claim but they got the job done.

My brothers and I had a complicated claim. I found Ben Ralph to be very helpful, himself and Sally Sutton worked hard for just over a year to get through our claim. They achieved a good result and got the monies paid to myself and my brothers.


I knew it from the very first phone call: I had found a compassionate law firm.

Monaco Solicitors, I have no hesitation in recommending Daniella Dababneh and her team. After I suffered a serious workplace accident, I was in need of legal help.


I recommend Monaco to everyone. Daniella and Megg did amazing work.

I have been so fortunate to have found such a Professional and reliable solicitor. I would recommend Monaco Solicitors to all my family and friends. I would like to give a special mention to Daniella Dababneh from TPD section for all her hard work and continued communication with me. ❤️


Monaco helped me get much more compensation than I expected.

Monaco Lawyers helped me to receive compensation for an ongoing injury I sustained after I was simply driving home from work and was driven into head on by an incompetent and negligent driver who I believe was texting at the time of the accident.


They helped me juggle my injury claim and my mum's full-time care.

I highly recommend Monaco Solicitors. I was claiming PI through my superannuation for workplace injuries. They were doing a no win no fee which was great as I am a carer for my mum and don't earn much.

Leon Monaco & team member

Why choose Monaco

The law surrounding death benefits is complicated, and getting what you deserve is often not as simple as lodging a claim. That’s why you need strong legal representation. Voted ‘Compensation Law Firm of the Year 2020’, we have the expertise to prove dependency, protect your rights and secure your rightful benefits.

Our lawyers have an extensive knowledge of similar cases, and are trained to stay up-to-date with the most recent court decisions. Since death benefits law is consistently evolving, this skillset is crucial to winning your claim.

Plus, as a national firm, we have the collective experience to handle any claim — no matter how complex.

Speak to us today for free, comprehensive legal advice. Find out where you stand, and how we can secure the benefits you’re entitled to.

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Millions won four clients

View more case results

$1 million

Death Benefit Claims
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When Chloe’s de facto partner died, his family tried to claim his benefit. We won 3 court cases in our battle to get Chloe what was rightfully hers.

When Chloe’s de facto partner died, he was only in his 30s. While he had no assets, he did have a large life insurance benefit. Unfortunately, his...

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$1 million

Death Benefit Claims
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After his death, Tina’s partners’ family was awarded his benefit. We found a loophole – and got the decision overturned.

When Tina’s de facto partner passed away, his super fund paid 100% of the benefit to her partner’s estate. Tina’s partner had made a recent will, stipulating...

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Death Benefit Claims
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When Daniella and Luke lost their father’s death benefit to his de facto spouse, we investigated and got the decision overturned.

After their father passed away, Daniella and Luke lodged a death benefit claim through his superannuation fund. Unfortunately, because their father was in a de facto relationship...

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Death Benefit Claims
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Parents win peace of mind and benefits against fraudulent de facto claim.

When Arthur and his wife lost their son John suddenly, their devastation was compounded by a woman claiming to be his de facto. She lodged a claim...

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Death Benefit Claims
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When his brother died, Shaun’s estranged parents tried to claim his benefit. We proved it belonged to Shaun.

For most of their lives, Shaun had assisted his brother financially. Shaun’s brother was estranged from their parents. Despite this estrangement, when Shaun’s brother passed away, their...

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Death Benefit Claims
Death Benefit

When Sonya’s same-sex partner passed away, her partners’ parents disputed Sonya’s death benefit claim. We proved that Sonya was the rightful beneficiary.

Sonya’s partners’ parents never supported their relationship. The parents provided evidence that Sonya and her partner had separated for a period prior to her passing. This complicated...

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