Thursday, March 19, 2009

B.C. Court Decides Competing Survivor Pension Claims Between Widow, Ex-Spouse

Stan Rule has another excellent post at Rule of Law today.  He reports on MacMichael v. Strocel, a January 2009 ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court that decided between the competing entitlement claims of a widow and a deceased's former wife to payment of federal survivor benefits under the Public Service Superannuation Pension Plan.

The former spouse was entitled to the husband's monthly survivor benefit pursuant to a 1971 separation agreement.  He remarried in 1973.

Subsequently, the terms of federal employees' Superannuation Pension Plan changed - under the current pension plan, only the deceased's widow has an entitlement to the monthly $1,200.00 benefit.

The Court ruled in favour of the widow.  As Mr. Rule points out:
Fern MacMichael asked the court to declare that James MacMichael held the survivors’ benefits in trust for her. She argued that the separation agreement created a trust, or alternatively that allowing Marie MacMichael to keep the benefits would unjustly enrich her.

Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein ruled that the widow was entitled to keep the survivors’ benefits. The separation agreement did not contain wording that would create an express trust for the benefits.

The Court also rejected the argument that the widow was unjustly enriched.

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