Dealing with the deceased’s property: Wills, “intestacy”, and small estates

Māori land

Succession: Transfer of Māori land when an owner dies

An order from the Māori Land Court is necessary to transfer the deceased’s land interests to his or her successors.

If the deceased owner made a will, any successor named in the will must be a member of the whānau or hapū associated with the land (in the terms of Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, they have to be within the “preferred classes of alienees”). People outside that whānau or hapū may be entitled to a life interest in the land or a right to income from the land only.

If there’s no will dealing with the deceased’s land interests (an “intestacy”), Te Ture Whenua Māori Act sets out rules for which whānau members the land will go to.

For more details about those succession rules, see the chapter “Māori land”, under “Succession: Transfer of ownership when an owner dies”. That section also explains how to apply to the Māori Land Court for a succession order.

Decisions at tangihanga about Māori land

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, s 176

Whānau at tangihanga can make decisions dealing with Māori land, and the decision can then be confirmed by the Māori Land Court. For example, if a father of a whānau dies, the whānau may decide to create a whānau trust in the name of their father. (See the chapter “Māori land”, under “Methods of managing Māori land: Trusts, incorporations, and reservations”.) They’ll need to record the decision as a resolution, along with details of who attended.

Other decisions that a whānau group at the tangihanga might make are, for example, to become a Māori incorporation, or to replace a trustee of an existing whānau trust. Again, these would need to be confirmed by the Māori Land Court.

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