New Zealands new family law
likely to unleash war of wills
A story published today by the New Zealand Herald reports that New Zealands
Matrimonial Property Act will be replaced in February by the new Property (Relationships)
The new act, which covers married, de facto and same-sex partnerships of three years or
more, will effectively split relationship property down the middle, unless alternative
legal arrangements have been agreed to by both parties.
Lindsay Pope, general manager of the Public Trust's special business unit, says that
when a person dies their partner can choose to take what is left to them in the will or,
if they are unhappy with that, seek what they are entitled to under the law.
The other two main pieces of legislation used to make a claim are the Family Protection
Act and the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act.
Under the Family Protection Act there is a moral obligation to provide for a partner
Although it is not common for people to turn their backs on their family, it does
And when it comes to challenging the will, being family does not automatically mean you
will receive a share of the estate.
Lawyer Bob Eades says families who have not seen eye-to-eye can reduce the chances of a
"There are an awful lot of contrary and disappointed people, and there's nothing
worse than a family that is being rent asunder because they think either they haven't got
enough or that someone else has got too much."
"If you are going to leave someone out, let's get a record of the reasons you are
doing it, because when you die that can be produced," he says.
"Very often I would say, sit down and write it out in your own handwriting, then
that can be handed on to the judge if there is an argument after you die."
Another avenue used to contest a will is if a person has been promised something and
ends up with nothing.
Mr. Pope gives the example of an elderly person with no close relatives in New Zealand
who promised the helper who did the lawns and the shopping something in the will. But he
or she forgot to change it.
Rather than go through a costly court battle, many cases are settled through mediation.