The corporate regulator has cautioned Australian financial services licensees against taking shortcuts when witnessing signatures on binding death benefit nomination forms for superannuation benefits.
In a statement, ASIC said it has “become aware of a widespread practice” among advisers to witness (or have their staff witness) client signatures on the forms without being in the presence of each signatory.
Additionally, the regulator said some death benefit nomination forms are being backdated, which it notes is another failure to comply with the law, and that in both cases it could result in the nominations being invalid.
“Improper and unethical practices around binding death nomination forms can lead to very poor consumer outcomes,” said acting ASIC chair Peter Kell.
“Advisers, licensees and their staff who engage in these practices should consider this a final warning. AFS licensees have ultimate responsibility for the conduct of their representatives and need to effectively monitor and supervise their representatives.”
ASIC said failure to properly witness death nomination forms can potentially result in those nominations being rejected, causing delays and uncertainty in the payment of death benefits.
“Australian financial services licensees and advisers have a professional and legal obligation to comply with the law,” the statement said.
“Taking shortcuts which result in important forms being invalidated and thereby jeopardising the account holder's wishes does not meet the minimum advice and conduct standards expected by ASIC.”
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