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Book on relationship property after death

Thursday 26 May 2005

Top NZ honour for book on relationship property after death

University of Otago Law academics were last night awarded the prize for the best law book of 2004 for a work examining recent law changes which enable the disinheriting of children from previous relationships in favour of the surviving spouse.

The book, Relationship Property on Death, won the Legal Research Foundation’s annual JF Northey Memorial Book Award which was presented at an Auckland ceremony attended by the Attorney-General, Hon Dr Michael Cullen.

Written by Otago Law Faculty staff Associate Professor Nicola Peart, Margaret Briggs, Professor Mark Henaghan, Jacinta Ruru and Shelley Griffiths, the book critically analyses the effects of recent radical reforms to the property rights of married and de facto couples after one of them dies.

Professor Mark Henaghan, on behalf of the authors, says that while there was much debate over the amendments giving heterosexual and same-sex de facto partners the same property rights as married couples, the new death provisions in the Property (Relationships) Act were barely discussed.

The new legislation means that wills can now be challenged by claims under the Property (Relationships) Act – an outcome symbolised on the book’s cover which depicts a will being torn up, says Professor Henaghan.

The Property (Relationship) Act has a general principle of a 50 per cent equal share of all property acquired during the relationship - provided the relationship lasts for more than three years.

If a will gives less than a 50 per cent share of relationship property to husband, wife or partner, then a preferred claim under the Property (Relationship) Act is likely to override the will and grant a 50 per cent share, he says.


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