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The Law Commission is undertaking the succession project with the
approval of the Minister of Justice.
The purpose of the project is to review, reform and develop
- the Wills Act 1837 (UK),
- the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949,
- the Family Protection Act 1955,
- the Matrimonial Property Act 1963, and
- the Administration Act 1969.
The ultimate aim is to have new
succession legislation drafted in plain language which
- provides for all these succession laws in fewer statutes (these being either
parts of, or instead of, the comprehensive succession statute envisaged in the
original project reference),
- simplifies the law,
- enables better effect to be given to the intentions of will-makers, and
- takes account of the diversity of New Zealand families.
project has three main aspects:
- Wills: Work on this aspect of the project has proceeded in parallel
with the Queensland Law Reform Commission reference (from the Standing Committee
of Australian Attorneys-General) to make the succession laws of Australian
States and Territories more uniform. In October 1996 the Commission published a
consultation paper, Wills Reforms (nzlc mp2, 1996). Submissions on this
paper have been analysed so that the terms of recommended reforms can be settled
in a forthcoming report.
- Succession as it applies to Mäori families: The Commission
engaged Professor Pat Hohepa, Dr David Williams, and Mrs Waerete Norman as
consultants on this aspect of the project: The Taking Into Account of Te Ao
Mäori in Relation to Reform of the Law of Succession: A Working Paper
(nzlc mp6, 1996). The Commission is continuing to consult with Mäori at
regional and national levels on ways that Mäori decisions about succession
to ancestral property can be given greater effect.
- Testamentary claims or succession adjustment: In August 1996
the Commission released a major discussion paper on the legislation that
provides for testamentary claims: Succession Law: Testamentary Claims
(nzlc pp24, 1996). The present law and the changes the Commission proposed to it
were summarised in a tandem plain language paper called What Should Happen to
Your Property When You Die? (nzlc mp1, 1996). The Commission has received a
large number of submissions and is considering the terms of recommendations for
a forthcoming report.
Early in 1997 the Commission received a
request from the Minister in charge of the Public Trust Office to expedite work
on another, more general aspect of the law of succession: what happens if an
estate beneficiary, say under a will, has unlawfully killed the will-maker? The
answer to this general question is the subject of this report.
Our work on homicidal heirs has been especially helped by consultation with
former Commissioner Professor Richard Sutton, Deputy Public Trustee Mr Brian
Blacktop and the Public Trust Office’s legal advisors, and Senior Law
Lecturer Nicola Peart. We have also had the benefit of our work being the
subject of critical review by Professor Julie Maxton. Assistance in completing
the report was received from Ross Carter, a Commission researcher. The
Commission acknowledges and expresses gratitude to each of these people. We
emphasise, however, that the views and recommendations expressed in this report
are those of the Commission, and not necessarily those of the people and bodies
who have helped us. The provisions of the draft Succession (Homicide) Act
199– were prepared by the Commission’s legislative counsel,
Mr GC Thornton qc.