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Deciding what happens to your property after you die

What this chapter covers

This chapter covers:

  • key legal words and what they mean
  • the key people involved in dealing with a will and the deceased person’s property, including executors, administrators and trustees
  • how to make a will
  • how to change your will
  • ways your will might be challenged or not followed after you die – for example, a challenge from family members under the Family Protection Act, or a court order under the relationship-property laws.

For information about what happens when someone dies without leaving a will, see the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Dealing with the deceased’s property”.

For information about making an “advance directive” about medical treatment (sometimes called a “living will”), see the chapter “Disability rights”, under “Health and disability services”.

What is a will?

A will is a document that says what you want to happen to your property after you die. It doesn’t have legal effect until you die.

Do I have to make a will?

No. But it is a good idea to have a will, because it is the way you can say what you want to happen to your property, and how you want any of your dependants to be cared for, after you die.

You do not have to make a will. But if you die without one, your property will be distributed according to laws of intestacy in the Administration Act 1969 (see the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Dealing with the deceased’s property”). This may not be the way you would have wanted things done.

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