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Posted 1 October 2018
by Sasha Brennan

Unmarried Woman Wins the Right to Take Survivor’s Pension

Women holding hand

The outcome of a recent case has been widely reported after an unmarried woman won the right to a survivor’s pension from her late partner. Ms Brewster had lived with her partner, Mr McMillan, for 10 years before he passed away suddenly in 2009 just two days after the couple got engaged. After the death of her partner, Ms Brewster applied for a survivor’s pension from Mr McMillan’s pension provider but she was refused. The reason for the refusal was because Mr McMillan had not signed the relevant form nominating Ms Brewster as the surviving partner entitled to receive the pension benefits. Had the couple been married Ms Brewster would have had an automatic right to the survivor’s pension. After a lengthy court battle the court ruled that the pension provider had unlawfully discriminated against Ms Brewster on the grounds of marital status and she was awarded the right to take the pension.

So why is this relevant to you? 

This case highlights the importance of providing for your loved ones on your death, particularly where you have a partner and you are not married. This not only applies to your pension provisions but it should also be taken into account when thinking about what should happen to your estate when you pass away.

It has been said that there are increasing numbers of family units where the parents are unmarried and do not have plans to marry in the future. What many people don’t realise is that where a person dies without leaving valid Will, an unmarried partner will not be entitled to receive a share of their estate.

What are the Intestacy Rules and what do they mean for me and my partner?

These are a set of rules in England and Wales enforced by law and which determine how a person’s estate is to be divided where they have not left a valid Will. The Intestacy rules are set out under the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act and provide that where a person dies unmarried with children, their whole estate will pass to their children and not to their partner. Where a person does not have any children, there is still no provision for their partner and instead, their estate will be divided between surviving family members starting with any surviving parents and moving through a list of other family members. Where there are no surviving family members then the whole estate will pass to the Treasury even though there is still a surviving partner.

What can I do to protect my partner?

Whilst this case has shown a need to reform the law relating to provisions for unmarried partner’s there has been no indication that there are any changes on the horizon to address this issue in relation to the Intestacy Rules. If you need to prepare or update your Will to protect your partner then contact a member of Tozers’ Wealth Management Team, who would be happy to assist you with preparing a Will that is right for you and your family. Our specialist and friendly team based across our Exeter, Teignmouth and Newton Abbot offices are on hand to take you through the process of making a Will and will take the time to tailor this to your particular circumstances. If you wish to speak with our experienced team of wills and probate solicitors please don’t hesitate to call us on 01392 207020.

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About the author

Sasha Brennan


Solicitor in the Wealth Management team