Home / Individuals / Articles / SMSFs - Determing your trustee structure

Self Managed Super Funds (SMSF) are attractive for some investors and of course, they do come with additional risks. One thing to be aware of though is that there are administrative requirements in establishing and running your SMSF. One of those requirements is the selection of trustees.

When setting up your SMSF, members need to choose between using individuals or a corporate trustee. Each trustee structure has varying requirements and implications for the members of the fund, so it is important to understand the differences. Members can choose up to four individual trustees or a corporate trustee, where a company acts as trustee for the fund.

Single member funds

For single-member funds with individual trustees, there must be two trustees; one trustee must be a fund member. If the fund member is an employee of the other trustee, the fund member and the other trustee must be relatives.

Single-member funds with a corporate trustee structure can have one or two directors. The fund member must be either sole director or one of the two directors. If there are two directors and the fund member is an employee of the other director, the fund member and the other director must be relatives.

Ongoing administration

One of the most significant differences between the structures is the ongoing administrative requirements and establishment costs. If a corporate trustee is selected, ASIC charges a fee to establish a company as well as an annual review fee. On the other hand, individual trustee arrangements incur lower establishment and ongoing costs as there is no need to establish a company.

Although using a corporate trustee can be more costly, there are benefits in selecting a corporate trustee especially in regards to the ownership and separation of fund assets. For example, changes in membership can be simpler. When a person starts or stops being a member of the fund, they become or cease to be, a director of the corporate trustee. Therefore, the corporate trustee itself does not change and the title to the fund’s assets is unchanged.

Where an individual trustee is removed or added, the titles of the SMSF’s assets must consequently change. The fees associated with these changes can be costly as state government authorities and most financial institutions charge fees for amending the titles of the fund’s assets.

Asset protection

An additional benefit of a corporate trustee structure is that it is a good form of asset protection, especially for professionals who work in industries where there is a high risk of being sued for damages (i.e. medical professionals).

As companies have limited liability, this reduces the risk of personal assets blending with fund assets. A corporate trustee structure is also suitable for those members who wish to borrow to purchase property through their SMSF. Most banks will require a corporate trustee structure for borrowing arrangements.

Estate planning

Another consideration when choosing a trustee structure is estate planning. An SMSF with individual trustees is not likely to continue to operate as usual when changes in trustees occur unless an appropriate succession plan has been prepared. With a corporate trustee, a company continues in the event of a member’s death.

If you are considering establishing a SMSF, we can help you at every stage, and certainly during establishment. As we have outlined, you must carefully consider the type of trustee structure most suited to your needs. We would be happy to explain all the options and their implications.

Matthew Crouch

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