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.
Her lawyers argued that the requirement of such a form was disproportionate in its effects, amounting to discrimination. They argued that it breached no less than a 2009 article in the European Convention on Human Rights, protecting a person’s rights to property and the peaceful enjoyment of possessions. The judges of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed, declaring that the point of the 2009 regulations “must have been to remove the difference in treatment between a longstanding cohabitant and a married or civil partner of a scheme member”