Qualifying as an interdependent or financial dependant
A question that often gets asked when dealing with death benefit nominations is whether a person will qualify under the interdependency or
financial dependency definitions. This is an important consideration as meeting the dependency criteria will enable potential beneficiaries
to qualify as a dependant and therefore allow them to receive a death benefit.
Put simply, an interdependency relationship exists between two people if all of the following conditions are met: 1. They have a close
personal relationship 2. They live together 3. One or both provides the other with financial support 4. One or both provides the other with
domestic support and personal care.
However, if two people satisfy the close personal relationship requirement but cannot satisfy the other three requirements, they can still
satisfy the interdependency relationship if:
Either or both of them suffer from a physical, intellectual or psychiatric disability, or
They are temporarily living apart (eg, overseas or in jail).
There is no easy way in determining whether an interdependent relationship exists, however superannuation law provides the following list
of considerations to help superannuation fund trustees determine if an interdependency relationship exists (or existed before one of the
- Duration of relationship
- Whether or not a sexual relationship exists
- Ownership, use and acquisition of property
- Degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
- Care and support of children
- Reputation and public aspects of the relationship
- Degree of emotional support
- Extent to which the relationship is one of mere convenience
- Any evidence suggesting that the parties intend the relationship to be permanent
A statutory declaration signed by one of the persons to the effect that the person is or was in an interdependency relationship with the
It is not necessary that each of these factors exists in order for an interdependency relationship to exist. Instead, each factor is to be
given the appropriate weighting depending on the circumstances.
If a beneficiary fails to meet the interdependency relationship criteria, they may qualify as a financial dependant. Being financially
dependent on the deceased generally means you relied on them for necessary financial support. This also applies to children over 18 years
old as they must be financially dependent on the deceased to be considered a financial dependant.
That said, the term financial dependant is not expressly defined in superannuation or tax legislation, so it takes on the ordinary meaning
of that term. As such, the definition of financial dependant is reliant on case law and comes down to the facts of each case.
In most cases, it is not the value of payments received from the member that establishes financial dependency but the degree of dependency
on that payment. This includes the extent the person relies on the financial support provided by another person to meet basic living
For example, a grandparent who chooses to pay school fees for their grandchild is unlikely to have their grandchild qualify as a financial
dependant. This is mainly due to the fact that the payment is seen to be more discretionary in nature than providing for an essential
element of life, such as food or shelter.
In summary, superannuation case law provides more flexibility for someone to be partially or wholly dependent, whereas tax dependency
takes a stricter approach as a substantial degree of dependency is required.