Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

Increase in Claims on Estates

Published: 19th February 2016

Author: Greg Kelly, Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Published in: Trust e.Speaking | Issue #22

How you can help avoid a claim on your own estate

In December 2015 the Sunday Star Times reported on a dispute amongst the members of the Ropati family in respect of their mother’s estate. The article contains the following statements:

“Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that the number of disputes over wills rose by nearly a third in just two years … In 2012 there were 252 contested wills, and last year the figure reached 325 … Claims against estates can be brought by widows, widowers, de-facto partners, children, step-children and grandchildren … A claimant has to prove that the deceased failed to discharge a moral duty to provide for him or her … In one extreme case, two sisters battling over their mother’s $80,000 estate took their fight to the Supreme Court … The dispute between Judith Guerin and Marta Hayes lasted more than five years.”

Similarly, statistics from the UK show an increase in estate claims over recent years. What is the reason for this?

  • People are living longer and amassing more significant assets. In particular the values of house properties in Auckland mean that estates are often sizeable
  • It’s now more common for a person to form a second or third relationship, following the death of a spouse or breakdown of a long-term relationship and this, in turn, frequently leads to relationship property claims
  • Disputes are arising between the adult children of a first marriage and the second or subsequent spouse/partner
  • Many people hold significant assets in their personal names and also in a family trust or trusts. There is no guarantee that any provision will be made for a family member. Challenging the deceased’s Will can force a distribution from the trustees, and
  • Balancing the competing claims of close family members can be a very difficult; the rules are unclear.

Unfortunately many people assume that if they make a claim it will be resolved quickly and cheaply in their favour. In fact, in many cases, the opposite is true: the claim is expensive to pursue, the court system is slow and frequently there are valid competing arguments which mean that the outcome is far from certain.

Litigation usually results in the parties being permanently alienated. Few people realise how stressful and unpleasant litigation can be. Will-makers frequently underestimate the consequences of decisions they make and also misjudge the potential for serious arguments to arise. Many decisions are poorly considered and often made without the benefit of full advice.

Avoiding estate disasters

  • Get competent legal and accounting advice from professionals who practise in this area
  • Be clear about the ownership structures. You need to understand why assets should be owned personally, by a trust or through a company and how they can be used to avoid claims
  • In the absence of good reasons, it’s unwise to cut out close family members from a Will or provide significant rewards to family members ahead of their siblings
  • Family farms and businesses commonly create problems; often it is only realistic for one member of the family to carry on the family farm/business, and
  • Having suitable trustees is critical.

Inheritance planning requires careful thought and good advice. Attempts to ‘punish’ or ‘reward’ family members seldom have the desired effect, and create disharmony and a family breakdown. Careful thought and good advice can usually prevent this.

1- In the UK between 2010–2014, an average of 633 will/trust and probate cases were heard each year at the Chancery Court in London compared with an average of 485 per year in the previous five years.

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Price Baker Berridge

Price Baker Berridge is a boutique law firm specialising in Unit Titles and Body Corporate law. Our wealth of experience includes Leaky Building Litigation and Resolution, Meetings, Levies, Rules and Redevelopments.

We also provide a full range of general legal services, including Property, Commercial, Trusts, Litigation and Employment Law.

Our clients, from individuals to large corporates, value our commitment to providing cost-effective advice and solutions.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 836 1079

Attewell Clews & Cooper

Attewell Clews & Cooper is one of Whakatane’s largest and longest standing law firms. Our team embrace a culture of relaxed professionalism and share a common goal to provide high quality legal advice that is both practical and understandable. 

We are committed to being at the top of our game to ensure that our clients receive accurate and up-to-date legal advice.  We understand the world is online and use fore-front technology to achieve greater productivity and efficiency.  We encourage contact via email and text message, use an online legal library, have an intuitive practice management system and encourage our clients to pay online.

It is important to us that we understand your business and your unique individual (and family) situation. We work hard to provide sound legal advice that is tailored to your business industry and your personal goals. You will see us out and about in the community supporting local businesses, schools, community and sporting events. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 307 0570

Corcoran French

Corcoran French is a firm of Christchurch and North Canterbury lawyers with over 120 years experience in providing legal services to Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. We have offices in Christchurch City and Kaiapoi. We can also meet you at shared offices at Akaroa.

We welcome new clients and are committed to building strong long-term relationships that are rewarding for our clients.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 379 4660

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

Gifford Devine

For all life’s matters, the team at Gifford Devine have your back. Since 1896, our lawyers have been providing straight-talking, practical advice and advocacy to people, families and businesses in Hawke’s Bay.

As your legal champions, we’ll serve you as a trusted adviser, listen to your needs, offer plain English advice, and find a solution to get you the best possible outcome.

We have the expertise to identify potential legal issues, to help you make important decisions, and to realise your goals. We’re your legal champions for all reasons and at all stages of life.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 873 0420

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

CS Law

Looking after you, your family, and the small print.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 368 9239

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Law North Limited

We pride ourselves on being a "general store" for most legal issues but also have several in-house experts in specialised areas including trusts, relationship property, business and property law.  No matter what your issue is - whether you are looking for trusted legal advisers to steer you through life, or you have a one-off problem to sort out - we would be pleased to help.

Law North Ltd provides a broad range of legal services across the Far North district from our base in Kerikeri.   We have operated in the area for over 100 years and have a long-standing history of providing legal services to a diverse client base, including businesses and private clients.   Our directors and their families have been part of the Bay of Islands community for several generations and remain committed to the area and its people.  We often call upon strong local knowledge to resolve issues for clients whilst remaining vigilant about client confidentiality.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 407 7099

Aspiring Law

As one of the leading general practice law firms in Wanaka, the wider Upper Clutha and Central Otago Lakes district, our job is to explain both of our respective roles in managing your legal matters.

We’re a friendly group of people and our philosophy is based on three simple principles to make sure you avoid messy, lengthy, and costly legal issues:

  • Don’t leave anything to chance - certainty provides peace of mind
  • Seek expert advice - it really is the best and most cost-effective thing you can do
  • Ask for that advice early - it will be cheaper for you in the long term

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 443 0900

Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd

Incorporating traditional values and a fresh perspective, Sheddan Pritchard Law is here to assist you with all your legal needs. 

Our friendly and team-driven approach underpins our firm’s values, recognising the importance of putting people first and allows us to connect and nurture professional relationships with new and existing clients within our local community of Gore, as well as throughout New Zealand and extending overseas.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 209 0030

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

David O'Neill

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 839 1745

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Gillespie Young Watson

We specialise in Property, Commercial and Trust Law. When it comes to law firm size we are bigger than smaller and smaller than big. By limiting the work we do to our specialist areas, we like to think we bring together the best of big firm skill sets with the personal care, attention and relationships of small firms.

We expect our clients to receive clear, practical and timely advice. We place a premium on accessibility and convenience to our clients. We value and appreciate all of our clients and want to do the best possible job for each of them. When we close a file we want the client to feel they have received exceptional advice, service and value.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 569 3997

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited