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Who’s who: executors and other key people


Who is an “administrator”?

An administrator is the person appointed by the court to manage the estate of someone who dies without a will – this is called dying “intestate”. See the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Dealing with the deceased’s property: Wills, “intestacy”, and small estates”.

Usually a family member applies to be the administrator. They must give the court evidence that everyone who is equally close to the deceased person has either agreed to or been told about their application. The court will almost always appoint the deceased person’s next of kin as the administrator, unless they do not wish to have the job. If more than one person applies, the court will usually appoint the administrator according to the following order:

Administration Act 1969, s 6; High Court Rules 2016 (LI 2016/225), rule 27.35(4)

  • the surviving spouse or de facto partner, then
  • the children of the deceased, then
  • the parents of the deceased, then
  • brothers and sisters of the deceased, then
  • grandparents, then
  • uncles and aunts.

When will the court appoint an administrator?

The court will appoint an administrator if someone dies and there is no will, or if there is a will but no executor. Examples of where there may be a will but no executor include where:

  • the executor named in the will dies before the will-maker, or
  • the will does not name an executor, or
  • the executor named in the will refuses or is unable to act.

What does an administrator do?

Administration Act 1969, s 41, Family Protection Act 1955, ss 11,11A

An administrator carries out the same functions as an executor (see above, “Executors / What does an executor do?”). When there is no will, the administrator distributes the assets of the estate according to the laws of intestacy (see the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Dealing with the deceased’s property: Wills, “intestacy”, and small estates”). Where there is a will but no executor, the administrator administers the estate according to the will.

The administrator has a duty to give the court all the relevant information they have about the financial affairs of the estate and the deceased person’s reasons for making the provisions in the will or for not making provisions for any particular person. The court must consider the deceased person’s reasons.

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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.

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