The Supreme Court has ruled that a public service pension must recognise the rights of unmarried couples to inherit pension benefits if one person dies.

The rules for pension schemes may not have moved with the times and, as the number of couples cohabiting continues to rise, it will be increasingly common for people to deal with the financial consequences of a partner's death.

In this particular case, the deceased hadn't completed a pension nomination form to leave the death benefits to his partner, and she had no automatic rights under the scheme.

The Court's decision may indicate a shift in the attitude towards the treatment of cohabitees. Tax exemptions are only available for married couples, but this policy may be set to change it if is seen as discriminatory against couples who live together in committed relationships.

This case highlights the importance for unmarried couples to make wills and nominate their pensions to ensure that their partner will be provided for, as the law does not make any provision for a cohabitees to inherit automatically if their partner dies.