The question of whether one individual is financially dependent on another is critical to the outcome of many inheritance and trusts disputes. The issue certainly loomed large in a case concerning a woman who provided companionship and support to a very wealthy businessman in the years before his death.
The businessman was worth about £26 million when he died. He and the woman jointly owned homes in England and Switzerland. He left her £100,000 in his will. Although they lived together for only about 18 months prior to his death, she asserted that they had been in a relationship for over a decade.
After he died, the trustees of an occupational pension scheme that had been set up by the company he founded accepted that the woman should receive a substantial death benefit from the scheme. His son, who was also a member of the scheme, hotly disputed her entitlement to such a benefit. The trustees therefore sought judicial approval of the decision they had reached.
Ruling on the matter, the court noted that the woman was not required to prove that she was in a romantic relationship with the businessman. The deed that governed the scheme and and set out its rules empowered the trustees to pay death benefits to persons who, in their opinion, were dependent or interdependent on a deceased scheme member for all or any of the necessaries of life.
Whatever the nature of their relationship, the evidence established that she provided the businessman with companionship, comfort and support. He financially supported their lifestyle and their joint ownership of property indicated that it was a paradigm case of interdependency. Granting the approval sought, the court found that the trustees had reached a proper and reasonable decision.