Home | Browse Topics | Family law | A death in the family | Small estates: No need for court approval

Family law

Dealing with the deceased’s property: Wills, intestacy, and small estates

Small estates: No need for court approval

Court approval not necessary for amounts under $15,000

Administration Act 1969, ss 64–65, 82A Administration (Prescribed Amounts) Regulations 2009, reg 4

If the estate is a small one, it may not be necessary to apply to the courts for approval to deal with the estate (probate for a will, or letters of administration if there’s no will). Banks, company directors and so on can transfer the following to the executor/administrator or to family members or the beneficiaries who are entitled to it, without any need for probate or letters of administration:

  • money in bank accounts up to $15,000
  • shares worth up to $15,000
  • life insurance policies up to $15,000
  • government stock up to $15,000 and local authority stock up to $15,000.

The executor/administrator or beneficiary will usually need to provide a copy of the death certificate in these cases. The person or organisation paying or transferring the money or other property must also be satisfied that probate or letters of administration haven’t been granted.

Even if court approval isn’t needed because it’s a small estate, the executor has to follow the directions in the will. If there’s no will, they are still obligated to follow the the rules of who is entitled to what property (“the laws of intestacy”).

Tip: In practice, banks won’t know the total net worth of the estate, just the amount the deceased held with that individual bank. If there is less than $15,000 at a singular bank, you might be able to apply directly to that bank without having to get approval from the High Court.

Did this answer your question?

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

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.

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