Charter Will Inflict Inheritance Chaos
Grave Robbers' Charter Will Inflict Inheritance Chaos
ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks warned today that most New Zealanders’ dying wishes will be overridden by the Government’s family property law changes.
“I’m very concerned that people haven’t heard of this. It will be one of the most damaging parts of this new law. It seems that in the kerfuffle over extending marriage law to same sex couples this particular effect of the law was overlooked.
“When people make a will they expect their assets to be distributed in accordance with their wishes – and at the moment that is largely what happens. But, when this new law takes effect, spouses and former de facto partners will have first claim for a half share of the deceased’s assets.
“This applies regardless of what the will says, or what the bereaved children have been led to expect. The claim of a former partner can override even what the current wife or widow needs. The property division rules up to now affect only married couples while they live. From 2002 they will trump the wills of both married people and de facto couples.
“This Bill is a grave robber’s charter. It says that it has priority over anything in the deceased’s will and even over claims from the deceased’s family under the Family Protection Act. It will defeat express promises made by the deceased (for example to someone who has cared for them in a long sickness) under the Testamentary Promises Act.
“The Government’s family property law change will snare blended families and step-children in litigation. Suspicions about the greed of step-parents made them evil figure in fairy tales. The new law will give substance to children’s fears of their parents new partners and their children.
“Contracting out so that a will prevails is of suspect reliability. How do you get former de facto partners to sign away a windfall anyway? What incentive do they have to sign?
“To make the mess even more rich and juicy for the lawyers the Bill presumes that all the property of the deceased partner is relationship property, up for division. Children or other dependants who want to challenge the de facto’s claim have the burden of disproving the assertion that it is all relationship property. This bill promises to produce a huge number of bitter legal claims and counter-claims.
“For this new legislation to override what a person intends when they sit down and write their will is quite wrong. ACT will vigorously campaign for amendments to the Bill, to restore people’s rights to distribute their assets as they want,” Mr Franks said.