Live-in lover loses death benefits claim

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A late businessman's live-in girlfriend was not entitled to receive thousands of pounds in death benefits as a "dependent", even though she had given up her financial independence in response to his wishes, a High Court judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Carnwath said the fact that Carol Slack, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, was living with Keith Hindle-Smith and he paid for their joint expenses was not sufficient to establish that she was dependent on him, and she had given up her financial independence as "a matter of choice".

In a judgment with important implications for the beneficiaries of pension trusts, as well as the trustees, the judge ruled that the Pensions Ombudsman had been entitled to find maladministration by the trustees of the pension scheme arranged for Mr Hindle Smith, who died intestate in August 1992. The judge said the trustees had acted "wholly unreasonably" in awarding pounds 80,000 of pounds 140,000 in benefits to Mrs Slack.

In August last year, the Ombudsman ruled the award "null and void" and ordered the trustees to recover the pay-outs on behalf of Mr Hindle-Smith's children; each trustee to pay the brother and sister pounds 500 each in compensation.