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What happens if I die without a will in New Zealand?

27 February 2018
by Canterbury Legal

If you die without a will, your wishes may not be carried out how you likeWills are something every New Zealand adult should have. Wills allow you to say what you want to happen to your property after you die—even though you won’t be there to say it yourself.

And yet every year, thousands of New Zealanders die without a will. Estimates suggest that more than half of New Zealanders don't have a will.

That's a problem. Because even though your property will still get distributed if you die without a will, it may not be in the way you want.

Don't have a will? We can help you make one today

If you die without a will, the Administration Act steps in

Dying without a will is known as "dying intestate". In these situations, there's a law (Administration Act) which decides how your property is distributed.

It describes a number of family situations you might have at your death (e.g. partner or spouse but no children or parents; partner or spouse and children but no parents; partner or spouse and parents but no children; children but no parent or spouse), and sets out the corresponding distribution of property. It also says what happens if you die without any family.

It may be that these default positions are what you'd want to happen. After all, the legislation is intended to try and provide a fair outcome for most situations. Your property won't just disappear. It's likely your family will get something.

But it may not be what you'd want. For example, you may want to ensure your children receive a larger portion than what is provided for by the law. Or you may wish for them to inherit particular pieces of property, such as a family heirloom.

Dying without a will also makes things more complicated and uncertain for your family and loved ones, which is particularly tough in a time of grief. The last thing you want is to think your family members were at odds because you didn't leave clear instructions.

So while your property isn't doomed if you die without a will, it's much more certain and straightforward to make one

Even just a will with basic instructions can be a big help. And for most wills, it's a pretty straightforward process. You list what you're leaving behind, who it should go to, any instructions for your funeral, and who you'd like to carry out your wishes.

Make a will

If you don't have a will, there's no better time to start than today. We've helped a lot of people through the process of making a will, so you can be confident we'll handle yours with skill, sensitivity, and care.

Enter your details below to take the first step, or get in touch with us. We'll get you on the path today.

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