Home | Browse Topics | Individual rights & freedoms | Wills | Introduction

Individual rights & freedoms



What exactly 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 what are called the “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.

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”.

Did this answer your question?


Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

New Zealand Law Society



Making a will and estate administration

Dividing up relationship property.

Access pamphlets online or order hardcopies from the New Zealand Law Society.

Phone: (04) 472 7837
Email: pamphlets@lawsociety.org.nz

Ministry of Justice


This webpage provides some useful information and links on the more technical legal side of getting a copy of a will when a relative has died.

Māori Land Succession


This gives information on how Māori land is dealt with, including how land is dealt with after an owner has passed away.

Public Trust


Phone: 0800 371 471
The Public Trust gives information about things to consider when making a will, setting things up, choosing an executor and estate administration. Facilities are also available for making a will online. You can call them or visit their website to fill out an enquiry form.

Consumer NZ


The Consumer NZ website contains good information about wills, including the legal requirements for making a will, and what it’s likely to cost to administer after a person dies.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

The Manual contains over 1000 pages of easy-to-read legal info and comprehensive answers to common legal questions. From ACC to family law, health & disability, jobs, benefits & flats, Tāonga Māori, immigration and refugee law and much more, the Manual covers just about every area of community and personal life. It’s for people living in Aotearoa New Zealand (and their advocates) to help themselves.

Buy The Community Law Manual

Help the manual

We’re a small team that relies on the generosity of all our supporters. You can make a one-off donation or become a supporter by sponsoring the Manual for a community organisation near you. Every contribution helps us to continue updating and improving our legal information, year after year.

Donate Become a Supporter

Find the Answer to your Legal Question

back to top