Estate Planning and Family Trusts

Having your affairs in order now will ensure your legal well being and the future security of your family.  Avoid unexpected surprises for yourself or your family - we can help create an estate plan that is well thought out and meets your legal obligations, and it won't break the bank either.


Our living arrangements can become complicated at times.  People are often overwhelmed by the challenges of making proper arrangements for a complex family situation.  Blended families, subsequent marriages and all the permutations in between are becoming increasingly common.  There are various legal issues which are raised by these circumstances and they need to be properly addressed.  We are happy to discuss these issues with you - we often find that this process may take some time as you consider the legal options and decide which is the best fit for your family.  This may involve the creation of a family trust, or the prepartion of a Relationship Property Agreement to define the entitlments of each party.  It will also involve the drafting a wills which cater for the wishes and expectations of you both.  Once these issues have been attended to you can relax and forget those legal pitfalls, knowing that you have wisely addressed those isuse before they became a problem.


A Family Trust is a vehicle to separate assets from your personal ownership and consequently protect them from claims to which those assets may be exposed if they were to remain in your personal ownership.  Assets held properly in a family trust will be afforded protection from ex partners and spouses, creditors, and the government if you are seeking an asset tested benefit such as residential care subsidy.  It can also be a very effective method of passing assets on to other family members.  For example a family crib may be held in a Family Trust allowing all nominated family members to have an interest in the property.
We are happy to discuss what you need from a family trust and draft one specifically to meet those needs.  We will then arrange for the Deed to be properly signed by all parties and make sure that you all understand your duties and obligations under the trust.
The Law Commission has recently signalled pending changes to the laws around Family Trusts.  It will become easier to overturn the protection afforded by a trust, particularly when the trust has not been properly created or administered.  It will become essential for the trustees of a Family Trust to meet regularly, properly document their decisions, prepare financial accounts, and generally deal with the trust property in accordance with the terms of the Trust Deed.
This does not mean that there is no value in having a Family Trust - they will always be a fundamental tool in asset protection and succession.  It does mean that you will need professional advice and assistance to ensure that your Family Trust is properly formed and administered.  Shortcuts now may well prove very costly to you at a later date.


Up until 1 October 2011, New Zealanders were only able to gift $27,000 per annum without incurring gift duty.  At that time the Government abolished gift duty, meaning that it was possible to gift any amount without gift duty being incurred.  This has significantly freed up the ability of New Zealanders to provide directly for family members during their lifetime.  Previously it would take many consecutive years of gifting to dispose of an asset of any significant value - now this can be achieved with a single transaction.
While this may seem liberating at first blush, our new found gifting freedom is tempered by the Governments policy in regards to eligibility for residential care subsidies.  Gifting undertaken prior to application will be scrutinised and any gifting in excess of $6,000 per annum may be "clawed back" into your asset pool for the purposes of their assessment.
If you are contemplating gifting assets or applying for a residential care subsidy then please contact us to discuss how that current thresholds will apply to your situation.