Shepherd and Wedderburn

UK 200 2013 position: 71

Trustees’ decision set aside in death benefits case

The Deputy Pensions Ombudsman has set aside a trustees’ decision in a death benefits case because the trustees failed to ask the correct questions, misinterpreted the scheme rules, took into account irrelevant factors and did not undertake reasonable enquiries before reaching their decision. The case serves as a useful reminder to trustees on how to exercise their discretionary powers and the importance of proper process.

Mr Jackett was a deferred member of the pension scheme who died leaving behind two children and a partner, Miss Siegfried, with whom he had co-habited for a number of years but had never married. At the time of Mr Jackett’s death, he and Miss Siegfried were living apart.

The scheme rules provided for payment of a spouse’s pension to anyone married to the member on his death. If there was no spouse, the trustees had discretion to instead pay a dependant’s pension to one or more financial dependants. If no spouse’s or dependant’s pension was payable, a refund of contributions was payable to one or more beneficiaries, selected at the trustees’ discretion from among the categories of person listed in the scheme rules. This included spouse, siblings, financial dependants and persons notified to the trustees by the member to be considered as a recipient of death benefits…

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