What is Succession?
Māori land is often owned collectively by a number of owners. In some cases, there can be one owner, but often, Māori land is owned by many owners: sometimes less than a hundred, in some cases more than a thousand.
Each owner has a legal “interest” in the land. This interest is represented by the number of shares an owner holds.
As a result of the effect that colonisation had on Māori land ownership, legal steps have been taken to ensure that Māori land is retained in the hands of its owners, whanau, hapū, and iwi.
This means that when an owner passes away, their descendants will succeed to their Māori land interests.
If you have a parent or grandparent pass away that owned Māori land shares, then you should apply to succeed to those shares.
How do I apply?
You can apply to succeed using the Māori Land Court Succession forms. There are two forms:
Form 21 – Application For Succession When Grant Of Administration Held
Form 22 – Application For Succession When No Grant Of Administration Is Held
How do I know what form to use?
If an owner has died, and they left a will, or an estate with assets of $15,000 or more, they would need to apply for either Probate or Letters of Administration. If Probate or Letters of Administration have been granted, then you would use Form 21.
If an owner has died and they left a small estate with assets under $15,000, or if they have a will that either does not require probate, or there has been no formal administration, then you would use Form 22.
What do I need to complete my application?
The application form has a handy checklist towards the back page of the form. You will need to provide:
- the death certificate of the deceased,
- If there is a Will – an original certified copy.
- If there is a grant of administration – certified copies of either probate, or Letters of Administration.
- Whanau information: for example: the names of the parents of the deceased, names of siblings of the deceased, names of the children of the deceased, the names of any whāngai children.
- If there are whāngai children, whether or not there is agreement that the whāngai children should also succeed, and if not, reasons why not.
- Whether or not the whanau will be forming a Whanau Trust at the time the succession application is made.
- A list of the deceased’s land interests, i.e., the name of every block they held shares in and how many shares they had.
Succession and Life Interest
A deceased owner of Maori Land may leave a “life interest” to their spouse, civil union partner or de facto partner, or their spouse or partner may choose to receive a life interest. What this means is that they can continue to occupy the family home on Māori land and receive monetary benefits, or income from the land interests.
While a spouse or partner may enjoy life interest, any issue of the deceased will still be entitled to succeed, subject to life interest. This means that any children of the deceased, are still able to be involved in meetings and decisions pertaining to the block of land.
Life interest, generally, will end when a spouse or partner enter into another relationship, remarry, choose to give up their life interest, or die.
Simple and Uncontested Succession without a will or administration
Moana is eighty-three, she has seven children, and many grandchildren. Moana always attends land meetings, and her son Louis often drives her all around the North Island to attend meetings. One day, Moana passed away suddenly, leaving her children and grandchildren very sad.
Moana’s seven children know that mum had lots of shares, but don’t know where to start. Some of Moana’s children seem to think that the transfer of the land shares will pass to them automatically, but Louis knows they need to apply for succession.
After a lot of arguing, the seven children agree with Louis that he will make the application on their behalf. Louis asks the Māori Land Court to do a search of all of Moana’s land shares, and the Māori Land Court emails Louis with that information.
Louis makes sure he has a copy of Moana’s Death Certificate, Moana never made a will, so he makes sure to use Form 22. Louis fills out all the information on behalf of himself and his siblings. None of whom thanked him for doing this by the way.
Louis files the application in the Māori Land Court online and pays the $60 filing fee. As the application was straight forward, with no objections, the Registrar confirmed the succession and updated the Māori Land Court Records. Louis and his siblings each now own an equal share in all the blocks Moana was an owner in.
Succession with a will and administration
Helen is 65 and owns a large number of shares in two Māori land blocks around the East Coast. Helen was diagnosed with cancer and before she passed, she made a will. In her will she left her shares in one block to her son Edgar, and shares in the other block to her daughter Charlessne.
Helen’s executor named in her will applies for probate and a grant of administration (probate) has been made by the High Court.
Helen’s son and daughter apply for succession for each of them to succeed only to the shares in the block named in the will according to Helen’s wishes.
They make sure to use form 21 and provide a certified copy of Probate and a copy of Helen’s death certificate. The executor of Helen’s estate also provides a Certificate by Administrator which is Form 20.
Helen’s son files the application for succession in the Māori Land Court by dropping it off in person and paying the $60 filing fee. Helen’s children attend the Court hearing, and the Judge made the order for succession in Court.
Succession to Further Interests
Jessica has been trying to sort out all her dad Matiu’s land shares. He passed away ten years ago, and Jessica applied to succeed to his Māori land shares, the Māori Land Court made the succession order and Jessica thought that was that. Recently, Jessica received a letter from a Māori Incorporation in the South Island informing her that her dad had shares in a land block she had never heard of. According to the Incorporation, they had a slightly different spelling of her dad’s name. The different spelling was why those shares were missed when making the first application.
Jessica called the Māori Land Court, and they told her to use Form 1 – the General Application form to apply to succeed to these further interests.
Jessica filled out the form as best she could, explaining the situation and that she needed to succeed to these shares. Since Jessica had already succeeded to Matiu’s other land interests, the filing fee was only $20, Jessica attached a copy of the letter from the Incorporation, and a copy of her earlier succession order.
Succession to Māori land interests does not happen automatically. The Māori Land Court will not update its records unless a succession application is made. There are many instances where owners have long since passed and their children or whanau have not made the appropriate application to succeed.
If you require assistance with the application forms, or just have questions about succession, please contact Baywide Community Law Service.