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Law Commission gives details of succession law and class actions reviews

18 December 2019

The Law Commission has announced details of its planned review of the law of succession. Its review will consider who should be entitled to inherit a person’s property when they die.

The review was requested by the Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, on 12 July 2019. Mr Little subsequently said the Government wanted to consider the succession law review before it made major decision on the Law Commission's review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

The Commission has also announced details of its planned review of class actions and litigation funding.

Succession Law review

The Law Commission says it will look at the rules that apply when someone dies without leaving a will. The Commission will also review the rights of surviving partners, children and other family members, particularly if they think they have not been properly provided for in the deceased’s will.

"This is an important project. We will all be affected by succession law at some point in our lives," Deputy President and lead Commissioner on the review, Helen McQueen, says.

“Some of the law in this area hasn’t been reviewed in decades. Over this time New Zealand has undergone  significant social change, affecting the relationships we enter, the property we own and what we think family means. The law may not have kept pace with these changes and the reasonable expectations of New Zealanders.

“We will be asking some fundamental questions. How important is it that someone’s will is followed? Should family members be able to claim more property than the will gives them? How should the law apply to diverse family arrangements, such as second relationships and step-families? How should property be divided if there is no will?”

The Law Commission says it will hold a public consultation process during 2020 to enable New Zealanders to share their views. It intends to report to the Government with its recommendations for any reform by the end of 2021.

The terms of reference for the review are available here.

Class actions and litigation funding

The Law Commission is conducting a review of the law relating to class actions and litigation funding in New Zealand. While an increasing number of representative proceedings are being brought in the High Court (often referred to as “class actions”), New Zealand does not have detailed rules for conducting these proceedings. Similarly, litigation funding is increasing in New Zealand and there is currently no specific regulation of these arrangements.

The Commission’s review will consider whether, and to what extent, class actions and litigation funding are desirable in New Zealand. The Commission will also consider what rules should govern any class actions and litigation funding regime.

The Commission says it expects to publish a detailed consultation document in 2020 and will invite the public to provide feedback.

The terms of reference for the review are available here.

Last updated on the 18th December 2019