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.

Option A & B? That is the question

Published: 26th February 2018

Author: Greg Kelly, Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Published in: Trust e.Speaking | Issue 26

Entitlements under your spouse or partner’s will

When your spouse or partner dies you will need to make a very important decision between your entitlements under their will and potential claims against their estate. We discuss the implications of that decision, some of the issues that it raises and the consequences of the choice that you make.

In 2002 the law in New Zealand was changed so that when one of the spouses to a marriage or one of the partners in a de facto relationship of more than three years dies, the death for most purposes is treated the same as separation. Under the Matrimonial Property Act 1976, when a married couple separated the general rule was that their matrimonial property was split 50/50.

The changes to the law in 2002 extended this division to the situation where one of the spouses or de facto couples dies leaving a surviving spouse or partner. For practical purposes, death is treated the same as a separation under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, known as the PRA.

Making a choice

There are specific provisions in part 8 of the PRA dealing with the division of relationship property on death. In essence, the surviving spouse has to make the following choice within six months of probate being granted:

  • Option A - which is to make an application to the court under the PRA for a division of relationship property, or
  • Option B - which is to elect not to make an application under the PRA for division of relationship property but to accept the provision made for them under their partner or spouse’s will and in any other way by the deceased.

Significantly, if Option A is chosen then the surviving spouse loses all gifts made to him or her in the deceased’s will. It needs to be remembered, however, that when applying to court for the division of the relationship property, as part of the court application, the surviving spouse can ask the court for an order that the gifts under the will be reinstated.

If the surviving spouse or partner does not make an election within six months of the date of probate being granted then he or she is deemed to have chosen Option B – that is accept what they receive under the will. This is, in effect, the default option.

The options

  1. If Colin and Diane are married (or in a de facto relationship of more than three years) and Colin dies leaving most or all of his estate to Diane, then Diane does not have to do anything in terms of electing Option A or B. In this situation Diane is better off taking what she receives under Colin’s will (Option B). If she does not choose one of the options, then six months after probate being granted she will be deemed to have chosen Option B anyway.
  2. On the other hand, if Colin’s will gives 50% or more of his estate to his children of his first marriage then Diane may very well be better off to get advice about choosing Option A. When she applies to the court under the PRA, she will ask the court to reinstate the provisions in Colin’s will for her.

A further important point to bear in mind is that quite separate from the division of relationship property, when a person dies he or she has duties to make provision for the maintenance and support of a surviving spouse or de facto partner. This is totally separate from a PRA claim and this obligation specifically applies to the deceased’s separate property.

Therefore in example (2) on page 2 Diane can claim one half of her and Colin’s relationship property by choosing Option A and, at the same time, she can also pursue a claim under the Family Protection Act 1955 for further provision for her maintenance and support from Colin’s estate. In determining the claim for maintenance and support the court will take into account what Diane has received under Colin’s will and/or what she will receive from a division of relationship property. The court will also take into account factors such as the length of their relationship, the competing claims and whether Colin has made provision for Diane through, for example, a family trust.

Deciding on A or B?

To make an informed decision about which option to choose, it’s very important that surviving spouses or partners obtain full details of the deceased’s assets, copies of all relevant documents and get prompt legal advice.

To make a valid and enforceable choice of Option A or B, it’s necessary for a document in a prescribed form to be signed and this document must be accompanied by a certificate signed by a lawyer who certifies that the effect and implications of the notice have been explained to the surviving spouse or partner. The document must then be lodged with the administrator of the estate.

Timeframe

Claims against estates are usually subject to specific time limits; not complying with these restrictions will often mean that legal rights disappear. For example, if Option A is not chosen in time and the estate has been fully and finally distributed, it may not be possible to belatedly pursue a PRA claim. Prompt advice is, therefore, essential.

 

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

Simpson Western

Simpson Western is a leading law firm in Auckland North, with offices in Takapuna and Silverdale.

The firm has ten partners, supported by a team of specialist lawyers, legal executives and a general manager, together with a team of excellent support staff.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 486 3058

Sandford & Partners Lawyers

We are a medium sized Rotorua law firm practicing in areas of business and property law, public law and personal legal services.

We are professionals who listen, who seek to understand your needs, and give practical and usable advice. We thrive on the challenge of providing excellent legal work and aim to give you the highest level of service. For us, working for you means dealing with the little details as well as the big picture.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 348 6039

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

NZ LAW Limited

NZ LAW Limited is an association of independent legal practices with member firms located throughout New Zealand. There are currently 53 member firms practising in a wide range of legal disciplines ranging from business law, home buying and selling, immigration law and intellectual property to aviation law and viticulture.

The group was established in 1992 when about five law firms met in Auckland to find a way to benefit their clients by replicating the conviviality and the sharing of ideas and expertise that occurs in larger law firms, but still be able to retain client confidentiality and their own independence.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 835 5299

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

Dorrington Poole

Dorrington Poole Lawyers has a long tradition in Dannevirke and was founded in 1914 by Percy Dorrington. The firm still acts for families of some of the earliest clients. The long term relationship with those clients gives continuity in a fast changing world.

The firm provides quality legal services within New Zealand for its rural, commercial and private clients. We provide services for clients not only in the Southern Hawkes Bay/Tararua area but also throughout the country.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 374 7089

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

Thomson Wilson

Thomson Wilson is a full service law firm based in Whangarei. We’ve been trusted lawyers for the Northland community and beyond for 75 years.

We act for individuals and families, businesses, public sector and other organisations. Whether you need no-fuss advice on a simple matter, or a team of legal experts. 

Our staff provide advice in most areas of the law, including property law, business law, trusts and estates, separation and divorce, resource management, criminal law and more.

We also offer expertise in specialist areas such as Maori land, local government law, farming and forestry.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 430 4380

Wilkinson Rodgers Lawyers

Our specialists work together to provide clients with the full range of advice they need to achieve their desired results. If you're looking for specialist knowledge and advice, are a company or individual we can help you by making it easier for you to achieve your objectives.

Our area of expertise include, but not limited to;

  • Commercial
  • Community
  • Family Law
  • Home, Asset & Employment
  • Wills & Estates

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 477 9844

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

Norris Ward McKinnon

We are the Waikato’s leading provider of specialist legal services with a national and international perspective.

We provide tailored legal advice to meet the diverse needs of large and small corporates, public institutions, small and medium businesses, individuals and families.

We know that choosing a law firm is not an easy task. We work with our clients to listen, reassure, and resolve their problems simply and cost effectively. From our experience, the best way to do this is through developing understanding and long-term relationships with our clients. Our team of lawyers are highly regarded with a depth of experience that gives them the credibility that underpins Norris Ward McKinnon’s solid reputation in the legal market. Put simply, they are real people dealing with the real issues that affect our clients day-to-day.

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 834 6000

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

Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Greg Kelly Law Limited is a boutique Wellington law firm specialising in trust and elder law. Our practice areas are wills, estates and trusts.

We act for private and institutional clients establishing and administering trusts, wills and estates. We also provide quality advice to legal and accounting firms in New Zealand and overseas. In particular, we can assist with legal opinions, obtaining and resealing probate, and estate and trust litigation.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 499 5193

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