Review of succession law – Law Commission proposes changes to the rights to a person's property when they die

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The way that a person’s property is distributed when they die is usually determined by that person’s will. However, there is also a range of legislation that can affect what property is included in the estate, and whether anyone can challenge the provisions of the will. Legislation also determines what happens to property if there wasn’t a will.

The Law Commission has recommended a thorough review of this legislation, most of which is well over 50 years old. It also notes that none of the existing pieces of legislation acknowledge the Māori approach to succession.

The Issues Paper that the Law Commission has released considers a range of issues, including:

  • a surviving partner’s relationship property entitlements;
  • the proposed repeal of the Family Protection Act, with a new provision for certain family members (the surviving partner, children under a prescribed age and disabled children of the deceased) to claim “family provision” from the estate;
  • an update to the intestacy regime, which determines which family members will receive inheritances from intestate estates, in what shares and in what priority;
  • whether the succession to taonga should be excluded from state law and instead be governed by tikanga Māori;
  • how parties can enter agreements to settle disputes, such as through a deed of family arrangement, and the law that applies to these agreements; and
  • the duties that should fall on personal representatives when claims are made against an estate.

They are now asking for views on these issues, with submissions open until 10 June 2021. They aim to publish a final report, with any recommendations for new legislation, by the end of 2021.

A copy of the Law Commission’s Issues Paper is available here.


Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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