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 the chapter “Wills”.)
People who are not from these classes may be entitled to a life interest in the land or a right to income from the land only.
Who can be a successor if there’s no will?
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 partner receives a life interest. 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.
- If the deceased owner has no surviving spouse or partner, 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?
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 must be satisfied that whāngai should be included and it may require evidence from the whānau about this.
In general, the court will want to be satisfied that all the natural children consent to their whāngai sibling also being included. However, the court may decide that the whāngai should be included regardless, especially if he or she is a member of the whānau or hapū associated with the land (the “preferred classes of alienees”).