In South Australia, a Power of Attorney (POA) grants someone the authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters while you are alive.

It can come into affect immediately or it can be deferred in its operation to a later time or trigger event such as one’s loss of legal capacity. A POA does not extend to making decisions after your death. The power conferred by a POA generally dies with you.

A Binding Death Benefit Nomination (BDBN) is a formal directive made by a member of a superannuation fund, specifying who should receive their superannuation benefits upon their death. These are two separate legal instruments serving distinct purposes. However, whether a POA can make a binding death benefit nomination on behalf of the donor of the POA in South Australia (which is intended to operate after the donor’s death) is subject to specific legal provisions and in some case interpretation of the terms of the relevant POA.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the nature of a POA. A POA is a legal document that grants an appointed person, known as the attorney, the authority to act on behalf of the grantor or principal (the person who granted the power) in specified financial and other legal matters. The powers granted can vary widely depending on the terms of the POA itself. In South Australia, the Powers of Attorney and Agency Act 1984 governs the basic rules of creation and operation of POA’s.

Typically, a POA grants powers related to financial, property, and legal decisions. However, powers regarding testamentary matters, such as making or altering a will, are generally excluded regardless of the terms of the POA document.

In South Australia, the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth) and the Trustee Act 1936 (SA) regulate superannuation matters, including death benefit nominations. These acts outline the requirements and procedures for making valid BDBNs. Generally, a BDBN can only be made by the member of the superannuation fund and must comply with the fund’s governing rules and relevant legislation.

Given the distinct nature of powers granted by a POA and the requirements for making a valid BDBN, it is unlikely that a POA would without the power to do so being expressly included inherently include the authority for the attorney to make a binding death benefit nomination on behalf of the grantor. The ability to make such a nomination is usually reserved for the member of the superannuation fund, as it involves the distribution of their assets upon death, which is a highly personal and specific decision.

However, there may be exceptions or circumstances where a POA could potentially make a binding death benefit nomination. For example, if the POA document explicitly includes provisions authorizing the attorney to make or alter beneficiary designations for superannuation benefits, then the attorney may have the necessary authority to execute a BDBN on behalf of the principal.

Additionally, if the grantor or principal is incapacitated and unable to make decisions regarding their superannuation benefits, the attorney might act in the principal’s best interests, including making a BDBN if it is deemed necessary for the principal’s financial well-being or to fulfill their estate planning objectives. However, such actions would likely be subject to scrutiny and review to ensure they align with the principal’s intentions and legal requirements.

One should be clear as to the wording of the POA if they intendd to expressly include certain powers such as dealing with superannuation death benefits before or after their death.

In conclusion, while a Power of Attorney grants broad powers to act on behalf of the principal in financial and legal matters, including some limited authority over decisions that might take effect on death, the ability to make a binding death benefit nomination in South Australia is typically reserved for the member of the superannuation fund. Whether a POA can make such a nomination would depend on the specific provisions of the POA document, relevant legislation, the applicable common law of the jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the principal’s incapacity or need for assistance. It is advisable to seek legal advice to clarify the extent of authority granted by a POA and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.