Review the New Zealand Family Protection Act 1955
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Did you know in New Zealand, even though you have made a Will, your wishes can be contested by your children? You make a Will to record what you want to happen on your death, yet in reality, you aren’t free at all to leave your estate to who you want.
Financially independent adult children are ‘entitled’ to inherit when a parent dies under the 1955 Family Protection Act.
This Act was introduced in 1900 to protect widows and young children from being left penniless. Since that time, it has been used by disgruntled financially independent adult children to go against their parents last wishes.
The law says parents must provide for the “proper maintenance and support” of their offspring, even when they are adults, a clause that courts have since interpreted as “moral duty” and as a precedent will usually award 10% to adult children of the deceased even if the child is estranged or neglectful.
New Zealand is an outlier – in most countries, to challenge a will you have to show financial need.
If you are in a relationship or remarry, your children from your first relationship/marriage could take your partner/spouse of your second marriage to Court and demand money from your late partner/spouse’s estate. This could mean you’re kicked out of your own home. It doesn't make a difference if your home is owned as joint tenants.
The Court fees to fight this will exceed what you have to pay them out. The Courts receive around 300 applications a year and there are many more than this that are settled out of Court before it gets to this stage.
As blended families are now on the rise, it’s time for the New Zealand Government to review the Family Protection Act, so that no family has to endure the heartache.
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