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Communtity Law Manual | Family law | A death in the family

A death in the family

A guide for families and whānau dealing with the loss of a loved one

What this chapter covers

This chapter is aimed at helping families and whānau when one of their loved ones has died. It explains the kinds of things they’ll need to do – from making sure all the paperwork for the burial or cremation is completed, to later steps like dealing with the deceased’s will and property.

This chapter also has some information about how the law in this area can relate to tangihanga and tikanga Māori – for example, how coroners should take tikanga into account when they’re making decisions about post-mortems (autopsies).

This chapter explains about:

  • how the cause of death is confirmed by a doctor or coroner, and how deaths are officially registered
  • arranging the funeral or tangihanga
  • rules around burial and cremation, including who has the legal power to make decisions about the body
  • organ donation, including who can give valid consent
  • dealing with the deceased’s property, including giving effect to their will, and what happens if there’s no will
  • financial support that’s available for the family, including from Work and Income or ACC in some cases
  • the laws around euthanasia and assisted dying.

    Note: In this chapter, we use the term “the deceased” to refer to the person who has died.

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