A young mother created a Will for herself using an online Will kit.   

She decided some of the clauses in the kit were not relevant to her, so she removed them.  She then arranged for her partner, who was to receive her KiwiSaver funds under in the Will, to witness the Will. 

Years later she handed the Will to a lawyer for safe-keeping. The lawyer noted that the Will was invalid as she had not included a clause regarding where the residue/balance of her estate would go, and had only had one witness to the Will.   

Further, as her partner had witnessed the Will, the gift to the partner of KiwiSaver funds would fail.  Her Will would essentially be ignored by the Courts if she was to pass away, and her estate would pass under the laws of intestacy (where someone dies without a Will). 

A Will is an important document that you should have in place.  

Your Will sets out who will administer your estate in accordance with your wishes and directions as to who will receive your assets. 

We understand it can be a difficult and grim thing for people to think about, and they often do not know where to start, however trying to cut corners when drafting a Will, including using online Will kits, can lead to expensive consequences down the track. 

Some key parts you will need to think about for your Will are: 

What do you own? 

What do you own? Do you own those assets jointly with anyone else or are they actually owned by a trust? 

Your Will only deals with assets you hold personally.  Any assets in joint names (except a house owned as tenants in common) like bank accounts will pass to the survivor.  

If you have overseas assets you will need to consider if your New Zealand Will can cover those assets.   

Depending on where the assets are held your New Zealand Will may need to be limited to your assets in New Zealand, and you may need to create a Will overseas as well for the other assets. In some cases your New Zealand Will can cover overseas assets as well, but you will need experienced legal advice to be sure you get it right. 

What, if anything, the Will should mention about any trust you are involved with will depend on what the trust deed says, and would be determined on a case by case basis.  

Any specific gifts 

Gifts will get distributed before the “residue” of your estate (the residue is whatever is left after gifts and debts are paid). Gifts can be a dollar figure or a particular asset such as “my great grandfather’s watch”.  

If there is a certain amount or asset you want to go to a particular person or charity then you can specify this in your Will.  


The executor(s) are the person(s) who will gather your assets, manage them until the beneficiaries are able to inherit, and will distribute your property in accordance with the instructions in your Will. You can appoint one or more people as executors (we recommend there be no more than two executors acting at a time usually, for practical reasons) and you can appoint backup executors in case your preferred executor is unable or unwilling to act.   

There are also certain corporations you could appoint to be the executor of your Will.  


Beneficiaries are the ones who will inherit your estate. The beneficiaries can be anyone you choose (individuals, charities, companies, trusts) and you can leave your estate to one or more beneficiaries in equal or unequal shares.  

You can also have back up beneficiaries (for example if you left money to a friend who then died before you the Will could provide in that case the share that friend would have received instead goes to their children).  

Executors can also be beneficiaries. 

At what age can people receive their inheritance? 

Under New Zealand law the minimum age of inheritance is 18. You can specify an older age in your Will, and until the beneficiary reaches that age the executor(s) will manage their share of the estate.  


Each parent can appoint one guardian upon their death (or the death of both parents) for any children they have under the age of 18.  

The guardian is not necessarily the person the children will live with. The guardian is the person who will make decisions about where they live, what school they go to etc.  

The guardian can be the same person as the executor of your Will.  

If the guardian is not also the executor then you should make sure they are someone who will get along with the executor who will be managing the estate assets.  

Directions regarding your remains  

If you have any particular wishes about what happens with your body (such as donating organs, being buried or cremated, and where you want to be laid to rest) you can put this in your Will, however this is not compulsory. 


There are strict rules regarding witnessing of Wills.  In some cases the Courts can validate a Will that is not properly witnessed, or has errors in it, but this is costly and there is no guarantee it will be validated. 

Generally Wills need to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses.  They must not be people named in the Will, and must be aged over 18.  They, and the Will-maker, need to all be present at the same time.  The Will-maker signs first on the last page of the Will, and initials every other page of the Will.   

The witnesses also need to sign the Will on the last page and must write their name, occupation and city of residence under their signature.  They also need to initial every other page of the Will.  

Not including key things in your Will, or not having it witnessed properly, ends up costing your estate more and causing delays administering your estate when you pass away.  It is therefore vital to take legal advice when drafting a Will, to ensure it does what you intend it to do. 


Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.