A summary of the judgement can be found on the Supreme Court website here.
Old Mutual Wealth pension expert, Jon Greer:
“For individuals that hold a defined benefit pension, the message is clearly that they should not make any assumption about who will inherit the pension if they pass away. Always check the scheme provisions, as there will be qualifying conditions that apply to survivors pensions particularly for co-habiting partners. While it is fairly standard for a spouse to benefit automatically on the member’s death, other family members may not and could be left short-changed if they work on the assumption that they will receive benefits. There are lots of example where this could be damaging, not only in a financial sense, but also to the relationships between surviving family members.
“And the same rule of thumb applies to DC members too. Never assume your pension will naturally pass to the most obvious person from your point of view. Often the recipient of the death benefit will be at the discretion of the Scheme. It is imperative that you make your wishes known by completing an expression of wish. Failing to nominate your preferred beneficiary can lead to discord after your death and mean extra hassle and possibly unnecessary tax for family members.
“Following this judgement Trustees may be prompted to review their eligibility requirements for survivor’s pensions. However, ordinarily where a scheme offers a survivor’s pension to someone who is not a spouse or civil partner the death grant is given at the absolute discretion of the Trustees whether or not a nomination had been made by the member. Prompted by this case Local Government Pension Schemes in England, Wales and Scotland have removed the equivalent nomination requirement from April 2014.”