Today is the day. 27th of March and the estate closes. It has been six months since the start of the most bullshit legal journey I have ever been on (and I dealt with Studylink).
When your partner dies, the one thing you are not thinking about is money; his accounts, his stuff. You are thinking “mother fucking piece of fuck, why the fuck did this happen, stupid piece of shit” and other such explicit words.
But the estate, his accounts, and other stuff is something you have to deal with, and usually they want it sorted ASAP or the accounts begin to get fines and things like that.
The first thing I found about the estate was that I was not allowed to be the one in charge.
Due to Riley not having a will, and the fact we had only been on a lease together for a year and three quarters I was not legally allowed to be in charge of his estate. So the responsibility fell to his mother.
Out of all the legal red tape bullshit I think this annoys me the most. Riley was my partner, I know what he would have wanted to do with that money, how it should have been split up etc. But because of the legal de facto relationship description I was unable. The following is how it is decided who runs the estate if there is no will (in NZ anyways).
The law sets out an order of priority for who is in charge of the estate and obtains the deceased’s property if he or she didn’t leave a will.
The basic order is:
- the spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner
- children (regardless of whether the parents were married)
- the deceased’s parents
- brothers and sisters
- uncles and aunts.
Note: A de facto partner will usually only be entitled under the laws of intestacy if the relationship was for three years or longer – but there may be an exception if the de facto partner has made a substantial contribution to the relationship or there is a child of the relationship.
Administration Act 1969, ss 77, 82A
If any of the people are physically or mentally unable to deal with the estate, they must sign a form and the responsibility falls to the next person. I fall in between Brothers and Sisters and Grandparents, I believe. Legal red tape is shit.
The responsibilities of the estate holder:
Establish that there is no Will – I checked through all his paper work, asked his parents, asked his sister. Riley didn’t have a will.
Gather information on the size of the estate – Next we had to see how much Riley had left behind. Debt and all. This needs to be done at the outset because if there is any one asset in the deceased person’s own name worth $15,000 or more (i.e. property, bank or investment accounts, shares or life insurance) you will need to apply for Letters of Administration on Intestacy (is the condition of the estate of a person who dies without having made a valid will or other binding declaration) in order to administer the estate (something that I of course did not get to help with).
Establish who is going to apply to be administrator – So this is the bit I mentioned above about who gets the responsibility of dealing with everything. His mother became the administrator for his estate.
Bring in estate assets and pay debts of estate – Once you have been given the get go ahead to start sorting the estate. The administrator(s), together with the lawyers start talking to the bank, the life insurance people, and Kiwisaver, to start claiming his money. From there the debt gets paid off firstly. Luckily Riley’s Kiwisaver was about the same as his bank loan so that just cancelled each other out. From there he had life insurance and the money from the court (our reparation from the man who killed Riley).
Wait for six month before distributing estate – For six months this has been hanging over my head. This is because if someone comes a long and claims Riley owes them money and it turns out they are correct, the money must be given to them. But after six months the administrator is no longer personally liable to pay anything because the other people have had their chance. During the six month waiting period the assets can be brought in and any debts of the estate can be paid.
AND FINALLY, distributing estate / finalising tax matters for estate – When the six months waiting period is up the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. So his mum gets the money and hopefully distributes to the people that deserve some of it. E.g. Herself and Riley’s father, Riley’s sister and brother, and hopefully me. This of course happens after all of the lawyer’s fees.
Not being able to deal with the estate as I mentioned was a giant fuck you from the government, and while I understand these laws are put in place to help make sure that people don’t try screw over the family, it instead belittles the partner, and made me feel like I was not worth anything in the eyes of the government. That money and his stuff, would have been split fairly and gone to appropriate members of his family if I had the chance. Instead I watch from the side lines and hope that the other people involved in Riley’s estate do the right thing. Like giving money to his sister to give to his niece and nephew for college. A thing that he would have definitely wanted.
I’ll update you and let you know how that goes. . .
The most important part of this, is to remind you to make a will.
You don’t have to have a lot, but you can quite quickly build up possessions that can have monetary or sentimental value to you and to others. You may have some money in a savings account, a car, a life insurance policy, and so on. A will allows you to decide what will go to whom, even if your possessions have sentimental rather than financial value.
This isn’t a sure fire way to get your way, but it gives you more control over the destination of your property than dying without a will. Some instances can see the will challenged.
Just as an FYI, what is a will?
Your will contains your instructions about what you want done with your property when you die, and how you want your dependants (spouse, civil union partner, de facto partner, children, etc.) to be looked after. A will can relieve financial and emotional strain on your family after your death, and can help minimise the likelihood of people challenging the distribution of the estate. It is not just money you have to think of, but all your possessions and/or debts.
Things of importance for Riley, like his lego going to his niece and nephew, and my nephew. His camera gear going to his sister, his computer going to someone who will actually use it, et cetera. These things may not mean a lot to you or me, but they will mean that the people who receive them will think of Riley when they use them. And really that’s what counts. To keep him in people’s hearts.
Back to the moral of this post, make a god damn will, and make sure your family aren’t going to be asshats about it.
Berlioz being such a daddies boy.