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Beneficiary / Administrator conflict - Gonciarz v Bienias [2019] WASC 104


The inherent conflict between the roles of administrator of a deceased estate and a potential beneficiary of a death benefit has been highlighted again in a recent WA case.  The spouse of the deceased member submitted an application for the super death benefit of about $540,000.  Subsequently, the spouse applied to be appointed the administrator of her husband’s deceased estate.  The member died without a will and also without making a binding death benefit nomination.

The conflict position of the spouse – as administrator the spouse must claim the death benefit for the estate and as a potential beneficiary – claiming the death benefit for herself – was resolved by the Court revoking her grant of administration and appointing another individual to act as administrator.  This permitted the spouse to pursue her claim to the death benefit.

Had the deceased member made a binding death benefit nomination naming his spouse as beneficiary, the case would never have arisen.  Equally, had another individual applied to be the administrator, then the spouse would have been free to pursue her claim to the death benefit.