Q: I have a terminal illness. Can I access my super benefits now?
A: We’re sorry to read about your illness. The superannuation rules now recognise that super benefits can be accessed early under such devastating circumstances.
For your information, ‘terminal illness’ for the purposes of accessing super benefits is defined as a ‘terminal medical condition’, and means: “a terminal medical condition exists if two registered medical practitioners have certified jointly or separately, that the member suffers from an illness, or has incurred an injury that is likely to result in the member’s death within 24 months of the date of certification.”
Note: Before 1 July 2015, a person suffering a terminal condition could only access super benefits within 12 months of expected death. What this meant is that a terminal medical condition (for the purposes of accessing super benefits) existed if two registered medical practitioners had certified jointly or separately, that the member suffered from an illness, or had incurred an injury that was likely to result in the member’s death within 12 months of the date of certification. Since 1 July 2015, it is within 24 months of the date of certification.
When applying to access super benefits early due to terminal illness, for each of the medical certificates required, the certification period must not have ended. Further, at least one of the registered medical practitioners must be a specialist practicing in an area related to the illness or injury.
Note: A super fund can release super benefits on the basis of a “terminal medical condition”. Superannuation payments made on the basis of the fund member suffering a terminal medical condition are free of tax, regardless of the age of the fund member.
Terminal or serious illness: compassionate ground for early release
An individual can also apply to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to access super benefits early on compassionate grounds where the fund member, or a dependant of the fund member, is dying from a terminal medical condition, and requires money to pay for palliative care. The individual suffering the terminal illness or the spouse of an individual suffering a terminal medical condition, can each apply for early access to super benefits via DHS on compassionate grounds.
If you or your spouse, apply for early release of super benefits on compassionate grounds via DHS, you first need to check with your super fund that the rules of your super fund permit such access. I explain ‘compassionate grounds’ in the SuperGuide article Accessing super early on ‘compassionate grounds’.
For more information on accessing super benefits due to terminal illness, and the specific requirements, see SuperGuide article: Accessing super early: Terminally ill receive tax break.
Your superannuation fund can assist you with the process involved to access your super benefits on the basis of terminal illness.