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Succession: Transfer of ownership when an owner dies

The successors: People entitled to ownership when an owner dies

Who can be a successor to Māori land under a will?

If the deceased owner made a will, any successor named in the will must fall within the “preferred classes of alienees” – that is, they must be a member of the whānau or hapū associated with the land. For information about wills generally, see: “Wills”.

A surviving partner can be gifted the right to:

  • live in the family home if it is on the land
  • receive income from the land

These rights can be for a period specified in the will, or for life. The surviving partner can’t sell or pass on these interests, and can’t alienate the land, so can’t enter into or amend a lease.

Who can be a successor if there’s no will?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, ss 109, 109AA

If the deceased owner of the land didn’t leave a will (this is called “intestacy”), the successors are determined by the following rules:

  • A deceased’s surviving spouse or civil union or de facto partner receives a life interest, but they are not a successor. Their interest will pass to the deceased’s children once the spouse or partner dies or remarries or enters into a civil union or de facto relationship.
  • The deceased’s children will be the successors.
  • If the deceased had no children, the deceased’s siblings (brothers and sisters) will be the successors.
  • If the deceased owner had no children or siblings, it will be necessary to find out where the deceased’s interests came from and from that whakapapa work out who the interests should now go to.

Can whāngai be included in succession?

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993, ss 114A–116; Māori Land Court Rules 2011, Schedule, Form 21

Yes. The Māori Land Court can consider whāngai when determining the deceased’s successors (a whāngai is a person adopted in accordance with tikanga Māori). The court will follow iwi and hapū tikanga in deciding whether a whāngai can be included in succession.

If the court decides that tikanga does not allow a whāngai to be included in succession, but that this leads to an injustice, it can still order that they be allowed to live in the family home (if it is on the land in question), and/or receive income from the land, either for their lifetime, or for a specific period of time.

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Māori land

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:

Māori Land Court

See the Māori Land Court website for application forms and information about Māori Land and the court’s role and processes.

Website: www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz
Download application forms online: www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz/our-application-process/come-in-apply-to-the-court/application-forms
Download information booklets online: www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz/about-mlc/publications
View the National Pānui online or subscribe online: www.maorilandcourt.govt.nz/national-panui

Ngāi Tahu Māori Law Centre

The Ngāi Tahu Māori Law Centre assists all Ngāi Tahu and all Māori living within the Ngāi Tahu rohe on Māori land law issues.

Website: www.ngaitahulaw.org.nz
Email: info@ngaitahulaw.org.nz
Phone: 0800 626 745

Pātaka Whenua

Pātaka Whenua is the new online customer portal that replaced Māori Land Online. This customer portal gives you the ability to submit an enquiry, access Māori land information and file a Court application.

Website:  www.customer.service.maorilandcourt.govt.nz
View the user guides on Pātaka Whenua online: www.māorilandcourt.govt.nz/contact-us/pātaka-whenua-our-new-online-portal

In the future you will be able to search for documents including Minutes and Orders. Until this is available online, you can access this information by emailing mlctewaharoa@justice.govt.nz or visiting your local Māori Land Court office.

Te Tumu Paeroa: Office of the Māori Trustee

Te Tumu Paeroa provide professional trustee services where the Māori Trustee has been appointed a role on a Māori Land Trust.

Website: www.tetumupaeroa.co.nz
Email: contact@tetumupaeroa.co.nz
Phone: 0800 943 682

Inland Revenue Department, Kaitakawaenga Māori service

Kaitakawaenga Māori provides support to any Māori individual or business wanting tax information, advice or training.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/contactus/kaitakawaenga-maori

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