Challenging a Will can be difficult, especially when there are complicated issues involved. One such issue is the succession of Māori land interests, and how these interests interact with the division of estates. Māori land is dealt with in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act in order to preserve Māori land ownership.

The succession of Māori land interests is controlled by the Act. The Act provides that when disposed of by a Will, interests in Māori land may only be left to children, siblings or any other person related by blood to the Will-maker that is also a member of the same hapū, for example grandchildren.

Claims made under the Act are usually dealt with by the Māori Land Court. However, if a claimant is challenging a Will under the Family Protection Act in relation to Māori land interests, this will be dealt with by the High Court or Family Court.

Te Ture Whenua Māori Act provides that the High Court has jurisdiction to hear claims in relation to testamentary (Will) and estate issues. This means that while the Māori Land Court will determine who, exactly, is entitled to the Māori land interests, the High Court will deal with any family protection claims.

Under the Family Protection Act, a person entitled to Māori land interests may challenge a Will through a claim of inadequate provision.

For an inadequate provision claim, the High Court will consider whether the Will-maker had a moral duty to provide for the claimant (and whether that duty was breached). The Court will also consider the size of the estate, any competing claims, and whether there was an estrangement.  

If the High Court finds that there was inadequate provision, the Court may order the provision of land to the claimant. However, the Court will only make an order to the extent of the breach of the moral duty by the Will-maker.

Challenging a Will can be a difficult and stressful process, especially when Māori land interests are involved. If you are confused about this process, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Peter Johnston and Hunter Flanagan-Connors