Divide relationship property when your partner dies

Your choices

If your partner dies, you have 2 options:

  1. you can choose to take what has been left to you in their will, or if they haven’t left a will, what you’re entitled to under the rules applying if there is no will (this is called option B) or
  2. you can ask the Family Court for a half-share of the relationship property (this is called option A).

You must decide by:

  • no later than 6 months after the death of your partner or
  • no later than 6 months after a grant of probate or letters of administration, if this has happened.

Your decision must be in writing and must include a certificate signed by a lawyer saying that they’ve fully explained everything to you. This must be sent to the administrator or executor of the estate (or to your local High Court if administration of that estate has not been granted in New Zealand). You can’t change your mind once you have made your choice without asking the court to allow you to.

If you don’t make a choice, by default you’ll be given what has been left to you in the will or what you’re entitled to if there is no will.

How property is divided

As the surviving partner, you have first claim for a share of the relationship property. This means that a person can’t give away the other partner’s share of the relationship property in their will.

You can opt out

Couples can agree that these rules won’t apply to them if they die. To do this, you need to sign a contract (like a contracting out agreement or prenuptial agreement) that says what will happen when one of you dies.

Apply to the court

Your application for a Relationship Property Order will be the same as for other relationship property applications, except that you’ll also have to say in your narrative affidavit:

  • whether your partner left a will
  • whether you chose option A or option B when your partner died.

Find out more about applying to divide relationship property

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