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Law Commission consults on succession law changes

Law Commission consults on succession law changes

  • 18 Apr 2021

Succession law is the law that determines what happens to a person’s property when they die.

Currently, Te Aka Matua o Te Ture - Law Commission is consulting on changes to the law of succession.

The Law Commission has launched a consultation website, and an Issues Paper for those wanting to engage in greater detail: Review of Succession Law: Rights to a person’s property on death | He arotake i te āheinga ki ngā rawa a te tangata ka mate ana.

Most of the law in this area was drafted in the mid-twentieth century.

Aotearoa New Zealand has changed significantly since then, affecting the relationships people enter and what family means to them. Some of these laws can be considered out of date.

The Commission is consulting on fundamental questions. How important is the freedom to choose what happens to our property after we die? Do we have a duty to provide for our family and whānau? Should succession law reflect the obligations to partners and family that exist during our lifetimes? How can the law help families avoid and resolve disputes about a loved one’s estate?

Another focus of the review is how best to enable the exercise of tino rangatiratanga and tikanga by Māori over succession matters (although not succession to whenua Māori).

The Commission’s proposals are informed by a survey of public attitudes and values undertaken by the University of Otago, with support from the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation.

Sixty-six per cent of Pacific peoples who responded to the survey agreed a person should be allowed to leave family members out of their will, much less than the 80 per cent of all survey respondents.

The survey revealed some other differences between the views of Pacific peoples and other ethnicity groups.

The Commission’s proposals for what the law should be include:

  • the law should be modernised and brought together in a single new Act;
  • a surviving partner should continue to have the right to the same property from the estate that they would get if the couple had separated rather than the deceased partner dying;
  • a deceased person’s surviving partner and children should be able to claim provision from the estate when they have been left insufficient property to meet their needs. We ask whether the age limit for children should be 18, 20 or 25 years. We also ask whether adult disabled children and all children should be able to claim;
  • people who have contributed significant benefits to the deceased or their estate but received no compensation should be able to make a claim against the estate under the proposed new Act;
  • when someone dies without a will, their estate should be distributed mainly between the surviving partner and their children, with less priority for parents.

The Commission will report to the Government by the end of the year. 

Have your say on the law reform proposals in the consultation website or in the Issues Paper.

Consultation closes on June 10, 2021.