Pension rights and unmarried couples
There is often confusion between the rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples as opposed to unmarried couples, with many unmarried couples still believing in the myth of the “common law spouse” and the misapprehension that they have the same rights as a spouse.
One of the differences between married and unmarried couples is in relation to “survivor’s allowance” and what a spouse or unmarried partner is entitled to from their deceased spouse’s or deceased partner’s pension fund in the event of their death.
Under the current rules, a spouse (i.e. husband or wife) is automatically entitled to “survivor’s allowance” in the event of their spouses death, and is entitled to receive a pay out from their pension fund. This is not the case for unmarried partners, and they will only be entitled to such a pay out if they “tick” a certain box on their pension form, otherwise they will receive nothing.
In February 2017, Denise Brewster won a landmark ruling which enabled her to claim “survivor’s allowance” from her deceased partner’s pension fund, even though he had failed to comply with completing the relevant paperwork. Denise, who had been with her partner for over 10 years prior to his death, argued that failing to allow her money from his fund would lead to un lawful discrimination, as she would be treated differently to a married spouse.
This ruling is expected to have wide implications for unmarried partners, not only in relation to pension benefits, but also in relation to other areas, where they have differing rights and responsibilities.
If you require any advice or assistance in relation to living as an unmarried couple, and/or the preparation of a Cohabitation or Living Together Agreement, please contact Lorna Barry on 01442 872311.