Video transcript – SMSF trustees – individual or corporate

When you set up your SMSF, you need to decide on the type of trustee for your fund. Your fund can either have individual trustees; or a company, as the trustee of the fund.

Whichever choice you make, each SMSF member must play an active role in managing the SMSF because:

  • with individual trustees, all members must be trustees
  • and with a corporate trustee, all members must be directors of the company.

So which type of trustee will suit you best? Let’s have a look at some of the differences:

  • If you are the only member of your fund - you still need two individual trustees; so you, plus one other person who is willing to be a trustee and not a member.
  • If you have a corporate trustee - you can be the single member and the sole director of the company.
  • Ownership of fund assets must be recorded in the name of all trustees on behalf of the fund.
  • For individual trustees – every trustee’s name must be listed. So, if a member leaves or joins the SMSF, you’ll have to change the ownership documents.
  • For a corporate trustee – only the company name is listed; so even if there is a change in SMSF members, you won’t have to change the ownership documents.

Whichever way you go, there are costs and fees involved in setting up an SMSF. It may cost a bit more to set up a corporate trustee, but that might be a small price to pay compared to the cost and effort involved in changing ownership documents.

If your SMSF breaks the super rules, each trustee can be fined thousands of dollars. If you have individual trustees, this will cost more in fines because each individual trustee is fined the penalty. If you have a corporate trustee, it only receives one penalty and the directors share the cost between them.

It’s a good idea to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both types of trustee structures with your SMSF adviser before you establish your SMSF.

For more SMSF information, take a look at our other videos - or visit the ATO website at

    Last modified: 12 Nov 2015QC 39855