Considering marrying or living with someone, but worry about how this will affect your assets or property you have inherited or likely to inherit?
Entering a second marriage or major relationship and concerned that your property is protected for your children, especially after your death?
Not sure of your entitlement to property which is in your partner's name or in the name of a trust?
HOW CAN WE HELP?
We can help by explaining the law, your rights and your partner’s rights, and advise on whether you might benefit from entering into a Relationship Property Agreement (or Contracting Out Agreement) with your partner or by forming a family trust.
Should a relationship end, we can prepare a Separation Agreement. This would clarify arrangements and allow both parties to move on.
Contact us for calm, clear and practical help.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a Relationship Property Agreement?
A Relationship Property Agreement is an agreement between married couples, de facto couples or civil union couples (including same sex couples) to alter the rules in the Property (Relationships) Act for the division of relationship property that would otherwise apply without such an agreement.
An agreement (usually called a contracting out agreement or “pre-nup”) may be entered into before the relationship commences or at any time during the relationship and it can continue to have effect after the death of a partner. It is becoming more common for people in new relationships to have an agreement to ensure that property they have acquired prior to the relationship (in particular, houses and businesses) remain their separate property for the duration of the relationship or some other agreed upon period.
A separation agreement in a lot of ways is similar to a contracting out agreement (or “pre-nup”) but is entered into at the end of the relationship. Its key purpose is to provide certainty around the division of property so that the parties can move forward without concern that a claim may be made against their assets down the track.
If an asset is only in my name (for example KiwiSaver), can it still be ‘Relationship Property’ and subject to a 50/50 sharing?
Yes. Relationship property covers things of financial value that you gained during the relationship even if it is only in your name. It can include:
- the family home and contents, other land or buildings and vehicles;
- salary/wages, KiwiSaver earned during the relationship, insurance pay-outs, superannuation you received, rents and other income from joint property;
- any property gained when you were in the relationship or had the relationship in mind and intended for both of you to use;
- non-personal debts (your personal debts are your own responsibility);
- gifts or inheritances that have become mixed with relationship property; and
- increases in the value of relationship property, income from it or the proceeds from the sale of it.
Can my partner and I stipulate what each of us own and what we own together if we separate or die?
Yes, a couple can choose to share their property differently than how the Property (Relationships) Act sets out. However, for this to be legally binding they need to enter into a contracting out agreement (sometimes known as a “prenuptial” agreement – or “pre-nup”) which details how their property is owned between them. Such an agreement must be in writing and must meet various legal requirements, including that the parties each get independent legal advice.
I am in a long-term second relationship but wish to leave all my estate to my children from my first marriage. Can I prepare my will accordingly?
Yes, but it is not as simple as that.
The Property (Relationships) Act covers division of property when a relationship ends due to the death of a spouse or partner. The surviving spouse or partner must choose whether to apply for relationship property to be divided under the Act (which means they are legally entitled to 50% of the couple's combined assets) or whether to take what is left to them under the deceased’s will. If a surviving spouse or partner makes a claim under the Act, this takes precedence over any other person’s claim under inheritance law (such as your children). This recognises that one spouse or partner should not be able to give away the other spouse’s or partner’s share of relationship property in their will. Therefore, what you think you might be giving your children under your will, may in fact be relationship property which your spouse or partner is entitled to, ahead of your children.
You will also need to enter into a contracting out agreement with your partner to ensure your wishes under your will are enforceable and that your property ownership is structured correctly.
I am separating from my spouse. We have agreed how we will divide how assets. Do we need to see a lawyer about this?
You don’t have to do anything official when you separate from your partner. However, a separation agreement is highly recommended as it keep things clear, especially if you have joint finances and property together, and allows you both to move on with peace of mind. For example, you may think you have finalised your property division based on a verbal agreement, only to be caught unaware by a claim by your ex-partner 18 months later. If you wish for the arrangement to be legally enforceable it must be in writing, and you will both have to obtain independent legal advice.
I recently had the privilege of working with Julie on a recent legal matter, and I can’t express enough how grateful I am for the exceptional service I received. From start to finish Julie demonstrated unwavering professionalism, expertise and dedication that has truly set her apart. From our very first consultation, it was evident that Julie had a deep understanding of the legal complexities involved in my case. Julie patiently listened to my concerns, explained the legal processes in a clear and understandable manner, and outlined a strategic plan to achieve the best possible outcome. What impressed me the most was Julie's commitment to my case. She was incredibly responsive, promptly answering all my questions and concerns, and keeping me updated on every development along the way. I never felt left in the dark or unsure about the status of my case. In the end, thanks to Julie's dedication and legal expertise, we achieved a positive outcome that exceeded my expectations. I can't thank her enough for the peace of mind she provided during a challenging time in my life. If you're seeking a lawyer who combines legal excellence with genuine compassion for their clients, I wholeheartedly recommend Julie. I would not hesitate to enlist her services again if needed in the future.
Julie has acted as our lawyer for a number of years. She has represented our interests on property conveyancing i.e. purchasing, selling and also reviewing build and development contracts. Julie also helped us create our Wills and EPA with good advice on how we might structure them in a clear and concise manner. We have no hesitation in recommending Julie. We have found her to be professional, approachable and respectful, and she explains 'legal language' In layman's terms and is always responsive to our queries.
I’m very appreciative of the legal advice and representation I have received from Julie Bremner. I have secured her services over the past eight years and she continues to exceed my expectations. Julie is always there to help swiftly and with a great degree of experience, knowledge and professionalism whenever I need her. I will continue to recommend her to clients, friends and family.
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We worked closely with Che Bunce through the process of buying our first home, as well as selling, and then buying our second. Che kept us completely up to date throughout the entire process, every time, and there we no surprises or shocks along the way! Highly recommended.
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"We've had a number of experiences with different lawyers over the years and I can say without hesitation that Georgia has by far been the best to work with. She goes the extra mile any chance she gets and we felt completely supported and informed through every step of our dealings with her."
"As new business owners with a young family we wanted clarity on how to best protect our family assets and also wanted to establish our wills. Georgia from the start was full of knowledge, that really felt personalised to our situation. After the first phone call with Georgia, we felt like we were getting answers to our questions and had real solutions to our needs. We feel like we have sorted out some of the most important aspects of our lives, and it allows us to move forward knowing that we are more financially secure as a family and more prepared for things that life might throw at us."
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"Georgia has been such a pleasure to work with. We had unique requirements and needed flexibility. Georgia gave great advice, helped us with next steps and made what could have been a stressful process a lot easier. We would definitely work with Georgia again in the future."
"Suzie has a natural ability to put clients at ease, build trust and show compassion. She was patient and thorough while reviewing our parents’ affairs, setting up wills and enduring powers of attorney. She explained complicated jargon into understandable language providing sound advice which we acted upon. Suzie treated us as part of her family and we’re very happy to recommend her to anyone needing caring legal services."
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"Rosie, thank you again for the amazing support you have given us through this process. It has been an overwhelming, exciting, scary process but also an amazing learning curve for us - and it has been a much more enjoyable process having you on our team and going the extra mile where you have! You will be highly recommended to anyone we know looking at a trustworthy, friendly, efficient and professional lawyer."
"Suzie, thank you again. You have been awesome and so easy to deal with, understanding my needs, keeping me up to date and acting on behalf during these unusual circumstances."
"Suzie, it has been a god send having you represent the family. Your assistance during the hardest of times during the lockdown period is invaluable. I will definitely employ your services for any legal matters that should arise, and recommend you to everyone that I know."
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"Suzie took care of our Family Trust arrangements, along with our respective enduring powers of attorney and wills. We have found her to be very professional, along with being very pleasant to deal with."
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“Rosie helped us with our wills and powers of attorney and she made it such an easy process for us. She gave us a lot of advice and explained different ways we could do it, all along with a friendly professionalism. I cannot recommend her enough and will definitely be using her services in the future.”