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Individual rights & freedoms

Who’s who: executors and other key people


Who is a trustee?

Administration Act 1969, ss 13, 63; Trustee Act 1956 (replaced by Trusts Act 2019 on 30 Jan 2021)

A trustee is a person or organisation responsible for holding any of the will-maker’s property until it can be paid to the beneficiary who is entitled to the property. The roles of executor and trustee are usually combined in a single person.

It is not legally required to get someone’s permission before appointing them as a trustee. However, it is a good idea to ask them, as they may refuse to accept the role after your death.

What does a trustee do?

In a will, the legal ownership of the property passes to the trustee on the death of the will-maker. The trustee must hold it for the beneficiaries and distribute it under the terms of the will. Sometimes the trustee’s role may continue for some time, for example, where the will provides for children to benefit when they reach a certain age.

Does a trustee get paid?

Trustees can get paid for their services only if this is provided for in the will. Where the trustee is a professional (for example, a lawyer, accountant or trust company), they will generally ask for the will to include arrangements for their payment.

Next Section | Making a will

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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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