Inheritance Law Changes

Flying a bit below the horizon the New Zealand Law Commission has recommended a number of changes to the way New Zealand inheritance law works. The current law is over 70 years old so a general refresh was expected as circumstances have changed such as blended families, people living longer, more family conflict etc. It is also recommended that inheritance law is contained in one statute going forward as opposed to being spread across a number of different statutes as it is currently. There is still a long way to go before there is a draft law.

The major recommendations are:

  • Children who are over 25 who have fallen out with a parent and are cut out of their inheritance will not be able to contest the decision.
  • Stepchildren should be given the power to make a claim against an estate – probably resulting in a whole lot of new litigation between biological children and stepchildren over assets but also reflecting changing family dynamics in New Zealand.
  • Trusts which are used to stop someone from inheriting by hiding assets could be challenged.
  • If you have separated from your partner then the partner can make a claim against the estate for up to two years after separation. The thinking behind this is that you cannot get divorced legally for two years and often property settlements take that long to finalise.

There is a lot of other detail and recommendations in the Law Commission report. We will keep you up to date once the recommendations are concrete.

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