Smith, 61, is due to arrive in England next Thursday or Friday and will take charge of First Utility Super League’s bottom club the following Monday.
The brother of Warrington Wolves boss Tony Smith, he has had previous spells in the hot seat at Hull (1988-90) and Bradford Bulls (1996-97).
His Australian clubs include Illawarra Steelers, St George, Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters.
He has coached teams to four NRL Grand Finals, but been out of the game since leaving Roosters in 2012.
Stuart Dickens will continue as caretaker coach for next Sunday’s home game against league leaders Leeds Rhinos, though Smith is due to attend as an observer.
Wakefield chairman Michael Carter said: “He is massively experienced in the world of rugby and I think it’s a massive coup for us as a club that someone of Brian’s stature in the game actually applied for the job.”
Carter said Smith has initially been appointed until the end of the season, but discussions will be held to extend his contract if Wakefield avoid relegation.
The chairman confirmed signings could be made if “the right calibre of player becomes available”.