Australian magistrate wins $180,000 death payout from young lover, despite money being left to family

An Australian magistrate who courted controversy by entering into a relationship with a clerk court who was 45 years younger than him has won her AUD$180,000 (£98,000) death payout despite it being left to her mother.

Rodney Higgins successfully claimed the superannuation death benefit from his late fiance, Ashleigh Petrie, after the fund Rest Super agreed with his argument that he was her de facto partner and therefore her “dependent”, The Age reports.

However, lawyers for Ms Petrie’s struggling mother launched an appeal against the fund’s position and have been fighting the decision for the last 15 months.

The age gap between Mr Higgins and Ms Petrie sparked an Australian media controversy. She was hit by a car in the early hours of 28 October, 2019.

The Age reports that Mr Higgins, then 68, had been in a relationship with Petrie for seven months and they had lived together for about four months.

While they were together, Petrie nominated her monther as the beneficiary of her superannuation and life insurance.

However, Mr Higgins has since refused Petrie’s mother’s request to share the money, citing the emotional pain that he was not given a portion of Petrie’s ashes.

Petrie’s mother did not share the ashes with Mr Higgins because she was worried what would happen to them after he returned to his partner of 18 years within months of Petrie’s death.

Now, Petrie’s mother’s lawyer has argued that four months of cohabitation does not meet the Family Court’s criteria on de facto relationships and has argued instead that Petrie’s mother was her “dependent,” with the daughter transfering cash to her mohter for dinners, groceries and clothes.

A spokesperson for the fund, Michael Mills, told the paper: “Rest has every sympathy for Ms Petrie’s loved ones and all those grieving her tragic passing.

“In general terms, when a member dies, super funds are required by law to pay the member’s death benefit to a dependent or a legal representative, such as an estate. A super fund can only consider paying someone else if they can’t locate either a dependent or estate.”

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