NZLII [Home] [Databases] [WorldLII] [Search] [Feedback]

New Zealand Law Commission

You are here:  NZLII >> Databases >> New Zealand Law Commission >> Report >> R39 >> 1 Introduction

[Database Search] [Name Search] [Previous] [Next] [Download] [Help]

1 Introduction

What is succession law?

1 The law of succession is the system of rules that says who gets people’s property when they die.

In What property are interests adjusted?

2 At present, property (an estate) owned by a person who has died (a deceased) is distributed in different ways. This report recommends changes to rules that empower courts to adjust three ways in which property is distributed:

Why and how are interests in property adjusted?

3 Under present law people may ask courts to adjust interests in property a deceased owns on death on three main grounds:

Why is the present law in urgent need of review?

4 The present law needs review for four main reasons:

5 The need for review is urgent. The existing law operates in a way that is less just, clear, consistent, and efficient than it can be. The newest statute our draft Act would replace was enacted in 1963 – since then values known and widely accepted in New Zealand communities have changed, but the existing law has not in all cases developed to reflect these changes. Around 27 000 people die each year in New Zealand, many leaving significant amounts of property. But the families, friends and communities who survive those who die can rely only on the deficient existing law.

What does this Report do?

6 The Commission recommends that Parliament replace and update the present law by enacting the draft Succession (Adjustment) Act contained in this report. In the rest of this report the Commission

How did the commission arrive at its recommendations?

7 In August 1996 the Commission published a detailed technical paper on adjusting interests in the property a person owns on death.1 It was distributed to over 600 individuals and organisations. The 1996 discussion paper

The paper set out and invited comments on the Commission’s provisional conclusions, arrived at after extensive research and considerable preliminary consultation.2 Complete draft provisions for a Testamentary Claims Act were included with a commentary on them, as were examples illustrating how the Commission’s proposals would work. With amendments, the draft Act in the discussion paper has in this report become the draft Succession (Adjustment) Act.

8 Everyone may be affected, more or less, by the law of succession. For this reason the views of the community on changes to the law of succession are crucial. In a brief plain-language booklet the Commission also set out for public consideration and comment the present law and its proposals and options for reform.3 Examples were included to illustrate how the Commission’s proposals would work. The booklet was distributed to interested individuals and groups in New Zealand communities, and to each of the MPs who represented New Zealanders in the 44th Parliament. There are over 1300 firms of barristers and solicitors in New Zealand – each was asked to consider the booklet and draw it to their clients’ attention.

9 These two publications emphasised that the Commission’s proposals were tentative, and welcomed critical comment and the expression of other options and views. Comment was sought especially from Mäori, from cultural and ethnic communities, and from people who considered that they were affected by views the Commission expressed on issues of family structure and gender.

10 Distribution and discussion4 of the papers led to 176 requests for further information, and 87 written and telephoned submissions (see Acknowledgements). Submissions received from a group, like the submission from the National Council of Women/Te Kaunihera Wähine o Aotearoa, often expressed the views of the many members of the group. The submissions received were thoughtful and constructive. In its further work the Commission ensured that each submission was considered carefully and completely. The Commission repeats here its thanks to all those who contributed time and effort to comment on the proposals and options for change.

NZLII: Copyright Policy | Disclaimers | Privacy Policy | Feedback