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Can my partner's daughter make a claim on our estate?

The team at Morrison Kent answers your tricky legal questions.

14 March 2022

The team at Morrison Kent Lawyers have partnered with Informed Investor to answer your legal questions. To ask your questions, email morrison.kent@morrisonkent.com.

Q: When my partner and I met 13 years ago, I owned property. He said he does not want to lay claim to any of it if I predecease him. I trust him, but if he died before me, can his daughter make a claim? There is nothing on paper.

A: Once you pass away, there's no guarantee that someone will not make a claim against your estate.

Depending on the way your assets are owned, some of them may also not pass to your estate to be distributed in accordance with your will and may simply pass to your partner by way of survivorship.

For example, if your house is owned as joint tenants, this would go to your partner by way of survivorship. In these circumstances, you may wish to consider getting a contracting-out agreement (often called a 'prenup) or severing the title to tenants in common in equal/unequal shares. We always recommend you seek sound legal advice when considering a contracting-out agreement.

In relation to a step-child, they can only make a claim against a step-parent's estate if they were being maintained wholly or partly or were legally entitled to be maintained wholly or partially by the deceased (step-parent) immediately before their death.

This means if your partner's daughter was supported by you when you died, she might have a claim.

There's no way to stop someone from bringing a claim if they meet the requirements in accordance with the legislation.

Q: My neighbour's security camera captures us walking up and down our drive and as far as our front door. We've asked him to tweak the angle, but he says it can't be adjusted. What are my rights?

A: As Kiwis, we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Being filmed in the confines of our own properties can be an infringement on that expectation.

On the other hand, a neighbour may have a valid reason for setting up their security camera to capture the property next door – the most obvious one being to protect their own safety. The courts take both neighbours' interests into account when determining whether the filming neighbour has any liability.

If you and your property are being filmed, there are several legal avenues to challenge this, including:

  • In the civil sphere, under the tort of intrusion into seclusion, which involves demonstrating there an unauthorised intrusion into personal activity, space or affairs that is highly offensive to the everyday person;
  • in the criminal sphere, if your neighbour is filming inside your home without your consent; or
  • Under the Privacy Act 2020, where your neighbour is an agency rather than a private individual. This Act protects the collection and use of personal information, including video footage of an identifiable individual.

You have taken a pragmatic approach by talking to your neighbour and asking them to change their behaviour, which we would generally encourage.

However, if this does not resolve matters, seeking legal advice is an appropriate next step.

Your lawyer will work with you to ensure your rights are protected and determine the best strategy to put a stop to any unwanted behaviour.

Q: Can consultations be done online? And can costs be subsidised?

A: Yes, absolutely, we can carry out online consultations. If Covid-19 lockdowns taught us anything, it's that working remotely and looking after busy clients across the country can be straightforward.

We routinely assist clients nationwide and have adopted technology to help make that client service as seamless as if you were in our offices.

As for subsidised costs, this will depend on the services you require. We offer legal aid for a select range of services to make it easy for those who need urgent access to legal advice. For clients in financial hardship, this can be a much-needed lifeline, particularly in matters of childcare and family violence.

Alternatively, if you don't qualify for legal aid under your circumstances, we can support you to find the right level of expertise within our team and be upfront with our costs.

We always strive to be transparent with client expectations and ensure you're well informed of our approach, so you only pay for the level of service you require to reach your desired outcome.

For more information about our consultations and to find a service fit for your means, please feel free to contact the team at Morrison Kent – we'd be happy to put you on the right path.

Morrison Kent's legal experts Debbie Dunbar, Tess von Dadelszen and more have contributed general legal information for this Q&A. This information is provided for your general understanding. We recommend you seek legal advice concerning your individual circumstances. For more information on any of these legal issues, email the team at morrison.kent@morrisonkent.com.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.

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