As reported in an earlier article, the October 31, 2012 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Carrigan v. Carrigan Estate has wide ranging implications for administrators of pension plans with members whose benefits are subject to the Ontario Pension Benefits Act (PBA). The decision raises important issues for plan administrators in other jurisdictions as well.
On March 28, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada denied an application for leave to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decision. This means that the stay imposed by the Court of Appeal shortly after its controversial decision is lifted and the decision stands.
Implications for Plan Administrators
Unless or until there is a change to the PBA, pension plan administrators subject to that legislation must be mindful of how they deal with the payment of death benefits, especially in circumstances like those in Carrigan involving more than one spouse. Affected plan administrators should consider their obligation to reconsider the treatment of any prior death benefit payments involving competing spouses. In addition, we recommend a review of member communications, education materials and internal policy manuals relating to the treatment of death benefits.
Because death and marriage breakdown are not unique to Ontario, it would be prudent for pension plan administrators not subject to the PBA to consider how they administer death benefits, including a review of member communications, education materials and policy manuals relating to death benefits.