Succession, life interest & whāngai

Succession is the transfer of shares from a deceased owner to their descendants and beneficiaries. The type of succession you lodge depends on specific factors.

On this page:

Search for ownership information on Māori Land Online (external link)

Succession without a Will or Administration (Intestate)

Succession booklet coverOur most common type of succession is where the deceased left no Will and no formal administration has been granted.

In these circumstances, we will ask you:

  1. to fill in the application for succession (no grant of administration) – form 22
    Form 22 - Application for succession when no grant of administration is held [PDF, 231 KB]
  2. also include a certified copy of the death certificate
  3. to file your completed application with the court and pay the filing fee of $60

Sometimes a person may leave a Will, but you choose not to seek a grant of probate. In these circumstances we would also ask for a certified copy of that Will so any of their wishes about their land can be taken into account.

Find out more about certified copies (external link)

As part of the application, we will ask you questions about the whakapapa of the deceased. In particular we ask:

  • who were/are their parents
  • who were/are their brothers and sisters
  • who were/are their children
  • who were/are their partner(s).

We use this information to search and confirm any Māori land in the name of the deceased, and to allow us to make a legal determination about who is entitled to those interests.

A succession requires a hearing before a Judge so you, your whānau or your legal representative can confirm the facts of the succession.

You can choose to have the hearing at the Māori Land Court venue closest to where you live.

Find out where Māori Land Court venues are located

Contact us for more assistance

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Succession with a Will & Administration (Testate)

Where an estate has had formal administration granted by the High Court of New Zealand (including probate), we will ask you:

  1. to fill in an application for succession (with grant of administration) – form 21
    Form 21 - Succession when grant of administration held [PDF, 264 KB]
  2. also include certified copies of the following documents:
    1. death certificate
    2. will (if any)
    3. letters of administration or probate from the High Court of New Zealand
  3. to file your completed application with the court and pay the filing fee of $60

Find out more about certified copies (external link)

If a Will makes provision for Māori land, and leaves that land to specific people, the administrators of the estate can certify this on Form 20.

Form 20 - Certificate by administrator [PDF, 96 KB]

As part of the application, we will ask you questions about the whakapapa of the deceased. In particular we ask:

  • who were/are their parents
  • who were/are their brothers and sisters
  • who were/are their children
  • who were/are their partner(s).

We use this information to search and confirm any Māori land in the name of the deceased, and to allow us to make a legal determination about who is entitled to those interests.

A succession requires a hearing before a Judge so you, your whānau or your legal representative can confirm the facts of the succession.

You can choose to have the hearing at the Māori Land Court venue closest to where you live.

Find out where Māori Land Court venues are located

Contact us for more assistance

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Succession & creation of a whānau trust

We encourage you to consider the creation of a whānau trust at the same time as succession – there are no additional fees if this is lodged with us at the same time as your succession.

Fill in form 23 to create a whānau trust along with the succession.
Form 23 - Application for Whānau trust [PDF, 67 KB]

Find out more about whānau trusts

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Succession to further interests

After searching our records you may find that a deceased owner still has interests in Māori land, even though a succession may have occurred sometime in the past.

Before 1999, our record was entirely paper based which focused on land blocks. Shareholding was recorded in a series of ownership schedules attached to each land block which was located in one of our seven registry offices.

Successions processed in one office may have missed shares that were listed in paper records held in another office.

We have progressively digitised our paper records and entered ownership information in our database for owners nationally. You may find that shares which we missed earlier are now listed in our system.

In these circumstances, you can file a succession to further interests. We will ask you:

  1. to fill in a general application – form 1
    Form 1 - General form of application [PDF, 122 KB]
  2. also include:
    1. any whakapapa evidence
    2. details of any earlier succession that may have occurred for the deceased
  3. to file your completed application with the court and pay the filing fee of $20

Whakapapa evidence becomes important for these cases so that we can determine whether or not these interests do indeed belong to the deceased.

A succession to further interests may not require a formal hearing as we will rely on evidence given in any previous succession.

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Whāngai

A person adopted in accordance with Māori custom (rather than by legal adoption), or whāngai, may be included in a succession under certain circumstances.

A determination about whāngai is made by a judge and when they consider whether or not to include a whāngai in succession they would need to know:

  • the circumstances under which a person was adopted in accordance with Māori custom
  • whether or not the immediate whānau accept them as being a whāngai of the deceased
  • whether or not they have received Māori land interests from their natural parents
  • the extent to which any whāngai will receive interests in the land or income from the land.

A whāngai may receive some or all of the shares in the Māori land as if they were a child or grandchild of the deceased, or depending on the circumstances, a lesser interest for life or the income from the land.

It is important for you to consult with your whānau about whāngai. Where there is general agreement about the relationship between whāngai and their parent or grandparent, then this should be provided to us, so we can consider that alongside the succession.

A final decision on whāngai is made by a judge and will take into account the wishes of you and your whānau. You should be clear about those wishes (or disagreements) when you lodge an application with us.

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Partners - life interest

Where an owner of Māori land dies leaving a partner (by marriage, civil union or a defacto relationship), their partner may have a claim to the estate.

A partner may claim a life interest in those shares held by the deceased which entitles them to:

  • receive any rentals or payments made from the land
  • take part in ownership discussions about the land.

Any descendants of the deceased are determined by a judge and are listed as the ’remainderman’ – they are the people entitled if the life interest holder:

  • remarries
  • enters into another civil-union or defacto relationship
  • dies.

A life interest holder can’t transfer the shares by gift or by sale without the consent of the remainderman. They can give up their life interest at any time before succession occurs or after they receive an interest.

In the event that a life interest holder gives up their interest or they remarry, enter into another relationship or pass away, you can file an application to determine that life interest and have the shares transferred to the listed remainderman.

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No living descendants

If a person dies with no descendants, then the following people are entitled to their Māori land:

  • any brothers or sisters of the deceased
  • the parent of the deceased (from whom they received their Māori land) if they have no brothers or sisters, or those brothers and sisters have no descendants
  • the brothers and sisters of the parent (from whom they received their Māori land) if their parent is deceased
  • the grandparent of the deceased (from whom they received their Māori land) if their parent and uncle(s) and aunt(ies) are deceased
  • the closest living descendant who is related by blood to their grandparent (from whom they received their Māori land).

Unlike general land, Māori land does not revert to the Crown where there are no clear beneficiaries nor is it transferred to the other owners.

In these circumstances, we will search our records to determine who has the closest whakapapa connection to the deceased and transfer the interest. We will also seek input from other whānau of the deceased to ensure that the land goes to blood relative.

Any final determination about entitlement will be made by a judge.

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