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Family law

Challenging a will


You can challenge a will on the basis that it is not legally valid – for example, it wasn’t made and witnessed correctly (see: “Making a will”). If so, the court can declare it invalid, and an earlier will might be reinstated. If there aren’t any previous valid wills, the laws of intestacy will apply.

Even if a will is legally valid, it is still subject to three Acts. If a challenge is successful under one of these Acts, the court will amend the will as needed, but the rest of the will remains valid. These Acts also apply if there is no will.

  • Family protection – If you are a family member of the deceased, you can apply to the courts under the Family Protection Act 1955 on the grounds that you were not provided for adequately in the will or by the laws of intestacy (see: “Who can make a claim under the Family Protection Act?”).
  • Testamentary promises – If you provided work or services to the deceased, and in return they promised to provide for you in their will, but they broke that promise, you can apply to the courts under the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 (see: “If the deceased promised to give you something”).
  • Relationship property – If you are the spouse or partner of the deceased, you can apply to the courts under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 to receive half of the relationship property if you would prefer that instead of what you were left in the will or by the laws of intestacy (see: “Relationship property laws”).

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Confirmation of the cause of death – Coroners

The website of Coronial Services of New Zealand has information about the role of coroners in investigating the causes of deaths.

Website: coronialservices.justice.govt.nz

Registering a death

The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on what to do when someone passes, including registering a death.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/death-and-bereavement

Burial and cremation

See your local council website for information about burial and cremation in your area.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga

The Ministry for Primary Industries has information on its website about Māori customary rights for gathering kaimoana for tangihanga, hui and other traditional purposes.

Website: www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/maori-customary-fishing

Financial support for bereaved families

Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/urgent-costs/bereavement.html
Phone: 0800 559 009

ACC’s website has information about different types of accident compensation and payments that can be made to family members when a person has died in an accident.

Website: www.acc.co.nz/im-injured/financial-support/financial-support-after-death
Phone: 0800 101 996

Organ Donation New Zealand

Organ Donation New Zealand has information about organ and tissue donation.

Website: www.donor.co.nz

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