Law Commission proposes changes to succession law

Published: 15 April 2021

Te Aka Matua o te Ture | Law Commission is proposing changes to succession law, which addresses who inherits a person’s property when they die. In an issues paper and a consultation website released today, the Commission has identified some issues with the law and has presented options for reform. The Commission is seeking public feedback by 10 June 2021.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s succession law has not been reformed in many years. Generally, the law allows people to gift property through their will as they wish. However, certain people, particularly close family, may challenge the will and claim further provision from the estate.

If people die without a will, the law directs which family members should receive the property in the estate and in what shares.

Helen McQueen, lead Commissioner on the review, said:

“Succession law affects every New Zealander, yet much of the key legislation was drafted in the mid-twentieth century. Aotearoa New Zealand has changed significantly since then, affecting the relationships we enter and what we think family means. Societal attitudes and values have changed, and we think some of these laws are now out of date.”

“We are 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?”

The Commission notes the potentially different perspectives among Māori.

“Succession is an important kaupapa for Māori and engaging Māori voices in our consultation is a priority for the Commission. We ask about the relationship between tikanga and state law in any reform.”

After consultation, the Commission will finalise its recommendations for reform in a report to the Government due by the end of 2021.

Media Release - Review of Succession Law Issues Paper