Assistance for International Law Firms Challenging a New Zealand Will or Estate

16 February, 2020 | Carolyn Ranson

Are you a law firm based outside of New Zealand acting for a client who may be entitled to make a claim against a New Zealand estate?

If you act for a New Zealander living overseas, or for a client who has a relative in New Zealand who has died, we can assist.

New Zealand law provides a number of ways a Will can be challenged.  We discuss these in our article What Are Grounds For Contesting a Will? 

The facts of each case are crucial to how the law will apply.

At Smith and Partners we regularly act for overseas law firms to provide advice on New Zealand law and to negotiate and provide other litigation and administrative services to assist you to provide your client with strong legal advice and services in New Zealand.

We can advise you (or your client) on New Zealand law, your client’s chances of success and their options going forward.  We can negotiate on your client’s behalf to seek to achieve a successful outcome without the cost or stress of court proceedings.

We can guide you and your client every step of the way with cost effective, pragmatic and strategic advice.  We can do all this by telephone, Skype call and by email.  While sometimes court proceedings are inevitable, we believe most cases can be settled before it reaches that stage.

Read our case study below to see an example of this process in practise:


Case Study


What was the situation?

A law firm in Canada contacted Smith and Partners because they had a Canadian client whose parents were divorced and whose father had been living in New Zealand for many years with his new wife.  The client had recently become aware that her father had died and understood that he might own property and have other investments in New Zealand.

The client contacted the law firm in Canada to see whether they could help her find confirm this information and to see whether she had been left anything in her father’s Will.  She also instructed them to advise whether, if she had not been provided for in her father’s Will, she might be entitled to bring a claim against his estate and what costs and processes would be involved.


What did we do?

Smith and Partners was able to take full instructions from the Canadian law firm as to the background and details of the father in New Zealand.  We conducted property and other searches to establish that the father owned a property in Howick, Auckland.  We were also able to determine the law firm which was acting for the father’s estate and from that law firm, was able to obtain a copy of the father’s Will.

It transpired that the father had left all his estate to his new wife.   Smith and Partners was able to provide advice to the Canadian law firm regarding the potential claims that the client might have against her father’s estate, the chances of success and the likely outcome.  The Canadian law firm instructed Smith and Partners to prepare a letter based on the background facts which, supported by legal argument and precedent, set out the case for the client’s claim against the estate.  The letter also set out a without prejudice offer.


What was the outcome?

Through negotiation Smith and Partners was able to secure a settlement for the client in the form of a percentage of her father’s estate, without going to court.  This saved the client money and legal fees and prevented the ongoing stress and cost of a long, drawn out court battle.

As well as litigation matters, Smith and Partners is able to act in administration matters on behalf of overseas clients where there are New Zealand assets to be dealt with including applying for probate, resealing overseas probate in New Zealand or applying for letters of administration where there is no New Zealand Will.

If you would like advice on any matters relating to estate litigation or any other estate related matter, please contact our estates litigation specialists on 09 836 0939 or by email

Do you need assistance challenging a New Zealand will?
Get the right advice today – call 09 837 6840 to set up an appointment with one of our Estate Litigation experts.

email Carolyn
+64 9 837 6840

About the author

An experienced employment, estate litigation and elder law lawyer, Carolyn completed her law degree at City University, London in 1996. She was in house legal counsel for a large retirement village operator, before entering private practice in 2000. She joined
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