By Jamie Dobson
New Zealand’s first Wills Act migrated from the United Kingdom with its early settlers. Enacted in 1837, it became part of the governing legislature of the original dominion. The first real makeover of the Wills Act came some 160 years later, after a review of succession law was published by the Law Commission in 1996.
The length of time between changes says enough about the importance succession law plays in the lives of New Zealanders. Rules that effect an inevitable process in human life must change with care. They help people manage what is vitally important to them after life reaches an end. And the need to manage so carefully forms the basis for a crucial legal service.
Originally conceived by Public Trust NZ, the purpose of wills month is to draw more New Zealanders’ attention to making sure their legacy is in order after they pass. This September the Law Society is taking a focus on lawyers’ role in making wills. In this process, lawyers have the potential to make a difference ensuring clients’ wills capture their intent, helping them leave the legacy they desire.
Throughout the month we have been raising awareness of best practices on giving in wills; bringing together existing resources and speaking to experts in will-making. Given the past contributions to editions of LawTalk from Community Foundations NZ, our focus for this year’s wills month is on endowment funds as a form of giving in wills.
Will-making is a cornerstone of New Zealand’s legal services. It’s due time the legal community is recognised for its contribution to managing succession between New Zealand’s generations. The role of the Law Society is to lead lawyers in maintaining good practice in these legal services.
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