Dying Without a Will: What Happens to Your Estate?

LawyerThey say when there is a ‘will’, there is a way — but when you die, what happens if you have no will in place?

Whether you tried to draw up your own will and failed to get it signed, or had a valid will but are unaware it has been revoked on marriage, you might think everything you own will go to your partner. Contrary to what you might think, dying without a will can mean a messy allocation of your estate among your spouse and the children, according to Wong & Bong Law Office Ltd.

If you do not have a valid will, the court needs to make some rough division of who should get what. It does not consider your unique situation, as well as the needs of your dependents.

Who Sorts Out What

If you die intestate (legal term for dying without a will), the court appoints an administrator to manage your estate. This person will perform the same duties as an executor. This person is likely your next of kin. If that person does not wish to have the responsibility, other family members can apply for the position.

The administrator will be granted the opportunity to act as your representative. This person should submit an application to the High Court to grab “letters of administration”. This appointed person also has the responsibility to organise the disposal of your body, pay any of your estate’s debts and taxes, and distribute what remains according the laws of intestacy.

Who Gets What

The Administration Act 1969 implements an order of priority for the people who receive your property and how much of that property will be given to the. The basic order is spouse first (or civil union partner or de facto partner), then children, followed by your parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and uncles and aunts.

If you die without any of these family members surviving, your estate may pass on to the Crown. Anyone who expects to benefit from your estate may apply to the New Zealand Treasury. The treasury may pay out some of the estate to them.

The bottom-line? Make sure you have a will in place. Having one will make a difficult time much easier for your loved ones.