A will formally spells out how your partner’s assets (their ‘estate’) should be dealt with after their death. It may also include instructions for their funeral.
An estate could include things such as property, car, bank accounts, investments, KiwiSaver – anything owned in their name. You will need to find a copy of your partner’s will or the solicitor or trustee company (e.g. Public Trust) they made their will through. Until the court determines the will is valid (this is called ‘probate’) you may not be able to access your partner’s assets.
Any assets that are owned jointly will pass on your death to the surviving owner regardless of what the will says.
If your partner dies without having made a will, the law decides who among the family gets their assets. They may be divided differently to the way your partner would have wished. For example, with married couples, de facto, and civil union partners there is a set formula where the surviving partner will get the first amount in the estate, then the balance is divided between the partner and any children.
Under the Property Relationships Act, if you have been in a relationship for three years or more, you’re entitled to half your partner’s ‘relationship property’ if they die, unless you have made a separate agreement. Read more in our guide to planning in a relationship.