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.

Validating imperfect wills

Published: 5th October 2018

Author: Kimberly Lawrence, Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Published in: Trust eSpeaking, Spring 2018. No 27

What can be done?


For wills to be valid they must comply with a number of legal formalities; they must be in writing and there must be two witnesses who must attest to the will-maker signing the will in their presence.
However, some people create their own wills that do not comply with these formalities and these wills could be invalid. Sometimes people will express what they want to happen to their property after their death in an electronic document, such as a text message.
Since 2007 the High Court has had power to validate these documents so that they have the effect of being a valid will, even though they do not comply with the legal requirements of the Wills Act 2007.
When a person dies, you will usually find their will and contact their lawyer. Usually their will is perfectly in order, but sometimes it’s found that the will isn’t legally compliant. What can be done?


Two-step process


There is a two-step process when it comes to validating non-compliant wills. Firstly, there must be a document in existence which appears to be a will but does not comply with the formal requirements. Secondly, if there is such a document in existence, the court will then consider whether the document expresses that person’s ‘testamentary intentions’, or what they wanted to happen to their property after they die.
A number of ‘documents’ have been validated as wills. Electronically stored documents can meet the requirement that a ‘document’ be in existence. In a 2014 case , a draft will stored on a computer was validated. An email expressing what was to happen to a person’s property after their death was validated as a will in a 2015 case .
While New Zealand courts have not yet validated a text message as a final will, the Queensland Supreme Court has validated an unsent draft text message as a final will.
As a will must be ‘a document’ to be validated, oral instructions for a will cannot be validated by the High Court. However, if a person’s wishes have been recorded in writing then a document would exist which could be validated. In a 2012 case , instructions were given over the phone to a lawyer. The lawyer took notes, but did not prepare the draft will before the person died. The lawyer’s notes were validated as the deceased’s final will.
In a case this year , an audio recording of the deceased’s will instructions did not qualify as a ‘document’, however, the written notes taken of his oral instructions were a document which the court could, and did, validate. The court also said that in the modern world, with “widespread use of smartphones and other personal devices”, it is increasingly likely that people having important conversations will record their oral instructions. It was suggested that while a recording itself might not qualify as a ‘document’ which could be validated as a will, a transcript of such a recording might be validated.


Validating a will can be expensive


While going to court to get a non-compliant will validated can be expensive and time-consuming, informal documents which express a deceased person’s wishes can be validated to dispose of their property after their death in the manner that they wanted.
It is highly likely that in future, an increasing number of electronic documents such as, for example, Facebook posts, might be validated as wills.
Even though the High Court can validate imperfect wills, we would recommend that you ensure your will is correctly drawn up and that you sign it in front of two witnesses. This will help save not only time and money, but also make life much easier for the family you have left behind.

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

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

RSM Law

RSM Law is considered one of the most client focused law firms in South Canterbury. Established in 1883, the firm has played an integral part in the growth and development of South Canterbury, and beyond.

RSM Law's expertise covers all areas of the law, with particular emphasis on business law (including company law, small business and compliance); property law (rural and commercial property, and home buying and selling); litigation; resource management issues,(Carbon Accounting and Emissions Trading) estate planning, wills and trusts; infrastructure and syndication; and personal legal services.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 687 9777

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

Breaden McCardle Lawyers

Breaden McCardle Lawyers is the largest full service legal practice in the Kapiti Region.

We are here to help you and pride ourselves on providing practical, solutions based advice to clients in an approachable and straightforward manner.

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Horsley Christie

Horsley Christie is a successful law firm based in Whanganui which offers a diverse range of legal services to the Whanganui Region and beyond and has done for over 100 years.

When you deal with Horsley Christie you do so in the knowledge that the firm is one of many law practices nationwide who are members of NZ LAW.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 349 0090

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

Sumpter Moore

Sumpter Moore is based in South Otago and has a proud history of having provided a broad range of legal services to personal clients and businesses since 1873. Generations of families have been able to rely on our advice and assistance, because Sumpter Moore has stood behind that advice for over 100 years.

Sumpter Moore has fully serviced offices in both Balclutha and Milton, our relatively small size means we can work closely with our clients and you know who will be personally responsible for your legal affairs. It allows us to have close control over the quality and timeliness of the advice you receive.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 418 0066

Cruickshank Pryde

We are proud to provide a full suite of legal services to the regions of Southland and Central Otago. With our offices, located in Invercargill, Gore and Queenstown, equipped with the latest modern technology, we can service wider New Zealand and international clients with ease. Our areas of expertise include commercial, rural, business, employment, family, criminal, property, resource management and estate planning law.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 214 4069

RMY Legal

Having been a cornerstone in the New Plymouth and Taranaki legal community since the 1930s we offer in-depth knowledge coupled with legal expertise and always put the needs of you and your business at the heart of what we do.

Not only do we offer a first class service to clients throughout Taranaki, we are passionate about what we do and our success stems from delivering advice in clear and understandable terms.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 769 8080

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

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