Woman Receives Partner’s Pension After His Death

A North Ireland Supreme Court decision backs a woman’s case after a pension company denied her from receiving her late partner’s pensions, making it a landmark case for unmarried live-ins in the country. Analysts believe that it brings Irish pension law closer to England and Wales and Scotland.

Coleraine resident Denise Brewster had lived with Lenny McMullan for 10 years and had been engaged since Christmas Eve 2009. For undisclosed reasons, McMullan had died. As not being married, Brewster was denied pension access despite being the closest living confidant of McMullan.


According to the North Irish Supreme Court, five judges ruled in Brewster’s favour stating that to deny her pension was “unlawful.” In Ireland, pension members should use a designated form to nominate partners and individuals eligible for survivor’s pensions. Due to deemed “unfair and discriminatory” requirements, McMullan had never registered the pension benefits for Brewster.

The North Irish Supreme Court’s decision would also remove the nomination form from the pension scheme. The case of Brewster herself had helped remove “the difference in treatment between a longstanding cohabitant and a civil partner of a scheme member,” said Lord Kerr.

Former UK Pensions Minister Steve Webb said the ruling was indeed welcome in Britain’s modern society. He said it was “totally unacceptable to treat cohabiting couples as second-class citizens.” He added that 6 million people are living together as couples in the UK and pension issues between cohabiting individuals need to be addressed urgently.