The division of an estate belonging a deceased loved one is a sensitive and upsetting time, especially if members of the family feel that they are inadequately provided for. In New Zealand, you can contest the outcome of a will, usually under these four grounds:
Inadequate Provision, Family Protection Act 1955
Under the Family Protection Act 1955, a spouse, de facto partners, grandchildren, children and dependent step children can contest the will if they believe that they were not adequately provided for. The onus is on the claimant to prove that the deceased had a moral duty to provide for them and that they have not adequately done so in their will.
Unfulfilled Promises, Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949
If a person was promised a part of an estate in return for work or services carried out, they can claim under the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949. For instance, if a family member cared and nursed an elder relative when they were ill or looked after their property, they can claim that they have not been reimbursed for their contribution, as promised. The claimant must prove that there was a promise in place to reward the claimant for their help, or at the very least implied.
Claiming Half the Relationship Property, Property (Relationships) Act 1976
The surviving spouse or de facto partner is eligible for half the relationship property under the Property (Relationships) Act, unless they have chosen to opt out of the act and have the legal documents to support this. The surviving partner can accept what has been left to them in the will or make a claim against half the relationship property. If they wish to make a claim, they would need to follow the legal process and once your claim has been lodged, you lose your rights to inherit under the will, even if your claim was unsuccessful.
Challenging the Validity of a Will
The legal validity of a will may be challenged in the High Court should the claimant believe that the deceased was not of sound mind when making the will or could have been influenced in their decision. If it can be medically proved that they were not of sound mind or that they had been influenced into their decision, an earlier will will be reinstated. If there was not an earlier will, it would be dealt with under the rule of intestacy in which the estate is distributed between family following a set of provisions.
If you would like to contest the outcome of a will, speak with one of our Family Lawyers to discuss the options available to you.