What happens to my estate if I die without a Will?

where there is no will, estates are deemed ‘intestate’ and the law will step in to determine who is entitled to the estate, or their share of it

In New Zealand, estates of any size are managed in accordance with the terms of the deceased’s will. However, where there is no will, estates are deemed ‘intestate’ and the law will step in to determine who is entitled to the estate, or their share of it. This also applies in cases where the property owner attempted to make a will, but it wasn’t completed properly. Who is entitled to benefit is laid out in section 77 of the Administration Act 1969 which states:

  • Where there is a spouse/ partner, but no parents, children or other descendants – the spouse or partner will receive the whole estate. Civil union partnerships, de facto partners or same sex partners are all included. Should there be more than one spouse or partner, they will share the estate equally amongst them.
  • Where there is a spouse/ partner AND children or other descendants, the spouse/ partner will receive the personal chattels (i.e. boats, cars, furniture, clothing, jewellery etc) plus $155,000 (with interest) and one third of anything that is left over. The amount of $155,000 increases in line with inflation. Interest is payable on this amount from the date of death to the date it is paid out. The rate of interest paid on it also increases in line with inflation. The children/descendants will receive the remaining two thirds. If they have passed away, their share will go to their children, and so on for each generation.
  • Where there is a spouse or partner AND parents, but no children/ descendants, the spouse/ partner is entitled to personal chattels, $155,000 and two thirds of what is left. The parents will be given the final third.
  • Where there are children/ descendants but no spouse/ partner, the estate will be shared equally among the children. If any of the children/descendants have died, their children will receive their share.
  • Where there is no spouse/ partner, no children/descendants, but there are parents, the estate will be divided equally amongst the parents.

* Where there is no spouse/partner, no parents, no children/descendants but there are siblings, the whole estate will be divided equally amongst these siblings, or their children if they have passed away.

  • Where none of the above survive, but there are grandparents or uncles/aunts, half the estate will go to the mother’s side of the family, and half will go to the father’s side.
  • If the deceased is not survived by any of the above – all of the estate will belong to the New Zealand government. If you were dependant, or have reasonable grounds to have benefitted from the estate, you can apply to the New Zealand Treasury to receive your share.
Category: Frequent Questions

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