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Three big myths about wills

New research reveals that many Kiwis still have a lot to learn about wills and how they work.

One surprising misunderstanding from the study was the belief that a couple need just one will between them rather than one each.

52% of people thought this was correct, according to the Public Trust study commissioned ahead of their ‘mythbusting’ Wills Month campaign.

Public Trust Chief Executive Glenys Talivai says that many people mistakenly assume that, without a will, everything will automatically go to their next of kin.

"Every adult needs their own individual will, whether in a relationship or not," says Glenys Talivai.

"A will makes it very clear how you’d like your assets to be shared between family and friends and can greatly reduce the chance of your estate being successfully challenged.

"Without a will, assets are divided according to the Administration Act 1969. This may not be in line with your wishes. There’s a chance there will be some unwelcome surprises for your family during an already difficult time."

Another possible misunderstanding with wills concerns relationships and when to update a will. 73% of people said their will would still be valid if they separate from their partner.

"A will is still valid after a legal divorce, but anything assigned to ex-partners in the will becomes void. From a legal perspective, that provision is read as if the ex-partner died before the will maker," says Glenys Talivai.

"If you enter a new marriage after a will is made, it will usually revoke any will you wrote previously.

"The upshot is that it’s super important to update your will when a relationship changes, whether you’re separating, legally divorcing or moving in with someone. If you don’t, your estate may not be divided the way you want."

Other significant life changes, such as a new baby, or buying or selling a home or business, are all reasons to update your will as well.

The third big myth revealed in the research was about what goes into a will. 89% of those surveyed believed that a will contains a list of all their belongings and the people they want them to go to when they pass away.

"A will does not need to be highly detailed at all. You can simply decide to divide everything you own equally between your children or give everything to one person, such as your partner," says Glenys Talivai.

"The perception that wills are lengthy, complicated documents creates a barrier for many New Zealanders to actually get one."

Wills Month Mythbusting Quiz

55% of adults in New Zealand do not have a will in place. Public Trust wants to help change that by busting myths surrounding wills to get more Kiwis protecting the people and things that matter to them.

You can test how much you know about wills by taking Public Trust’s short Mythbusting Quiz (

Some other myths

Public Trust’s latest research provides a great opportunity to debunk other myths about wills.

Myth: You only need a will if you’re wealthy. Actually, anyone with $15,000 of assets needs a will. With the average KiwiSaver balance held by New Zealanders now around $17,000, far more people should have a will to protect this investment.

Myth: Wills are expensive. In fact, a simple will with Public Trust costs just $289. Weigh a few hundred dollars up against the possibility of thousands of dollars to settle your estate if you don’t have a will, and it’s money well spent.

Myth: Wills are time consuming. Preparing for a will consultation normally takes 20-25 minutes for a simple will, with the consultation itself around 45-90 minutes. That’s a total of around 2 hours to get things sorted, plus a little extra time afterwards for signing.

The nationally representative survey was commissioned by Public Trust and undertaken by Dynata in June and July 2019. 1,004 people aged from 18 to 85 were surveyed. Participants were selected to represent a cross-section of adult New Zealanders by age, gender, ethnicity and region.


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