Edmonds Judd


Enduring powers of attorney and the transition from attorney to executor upon death

Enduring powers of attorney are legal documents that allow individuals to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf in case they become incapacitated.


There are two types of enduring powers of attorney that someone can put in place:


  1. Property: this grants authority over financial and property matters including managing assets, paying bills, and making financial decisions. A person could appoint more than one attorney to act jointly and/or severally and direct that the powers of attorney can immediately come into effect so that the attorney can manage their property while they have mental capacity and continue to act once they become incapacitated. They can appoint a successor attorney to act in the event the first attorney is unable or unwilling to act.


  1. Personal care and welfare: this delegates authority over personal matters like health care and consent to treatments. A person can only appoint one attorney at a time, and it can only come into effect when they have lost their mental capacity. A successor attorney can also be appointed.


Specific requirements and restrictions can be put on the attorney such as a requirement to consult with or provide information to another person or to only act in relation to specific property matters. The attorney can only act in accordance with the powers given by the enduring power of attorney document. These powers are only to be used when the person who appointed the attorney is still alive.


When a person dies, their enduring power of attorney comes to an end, shifting the responsibility of managing their estate to the appointed executors named in their will.


Although an attorney may have been appointed to manage the deceased’s affairs when they were alive, the same person may not be appointed as the executor of the deceased’s estate upon their death. It is essential for individuals to understand the transition of responsibilities from enduring powers of attorney to executors upon their death. The attorney will cease to act, and the executors named in the will or appointed by the court step in to manage the deceased person’s estate. This includes handling the distribution of assets, paying off any debts, and ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out according to their will.


You should speak to your lawyer to ensure that your affairs are managed how you intend in the event you die or become incapacitated.

New Year – New Will

The new year is an opportunity to reflect on your life and your wishes for the future, including how you want to provide for your loved ones when you pass away.


The most important aspects of your will include the people in charge of your estate (your executors), what happens to your assets, the guardian of your children and your funeral/burial wishes. If you do not have a will or a valid will, then you do not get to decide these aspects for yourself.


Having a will is particularly important for parents and those with assets worth $15,000 or more (including Kiwisaver).


If you have a will, you should review it regularly to ensure your will is practical, up to date and valid.


Is my will valid? Common traps


Marriage or Civil Union

Ordinarily, a will is automatically revoked when you marry or enter into a civil union. If you have a will but have since married or entered into a civil union (or intend to in the near future), then you should review or update your will to ensure it is still valid.


Divorce or Separation

A separation does not automatically revoke your will. If you have separated and your ex-partner is still in your will, any gifts to them will remain valid unless you have a separation order or a court order dissolving the marriage or civil union.


For this reason, your will should be updated as soon as possible post-separation.


Witnessing Requirements

There are strict requirements for a will, one of which is having two adult independent witnesses. To be independent, the witnesses cannot benefit under the will or be a spouse, civil union or de facto partner of a person who will benefit under the will.


For example, Jane has a will that leaves everything to her son and daughter. Jane prepares her will at home and has her friend and her son’s wife witness her will. Unfortunately, her son’s wife is not independent and therefore the gift to Jane’s son will be void.


Circumstances that should trigger a will review


If one or more of the following apply to you, it’s time to review your will:


  • Family births or deaths;
  • Aging – contemplating the possibility of residential care;
  • Family members moving overseas (especially if they are your executor, as this can add cost and complication to your estate administration);
  • Creation of a family trust;
  • Winding up of a family trust;
  • Buying a property;
  • Change in assets or financial status;
  • Change in relationship status;
  • Change in family dynamics (e.g. estrangement); and/or
  • Simply a change of wishes.


Most people will have multiple wills during their lifetime, simply because life is full of change. If you don’t have a will, it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your will or you’ve had a change in circumstance, we encourage you to speak with your lawyer about your will.

It can sometimes be confusing when we talk about an attorney (for an Enduring Power of Attorney – EPA) and an executor who is appointed in your will and who looks after your estate when you die. The difference, as outlined below, is literally a matter of life and death.



An EPA is used when you may not be able to make decisions for yourself. For example, you may become very unwell, or unable to communicate important decisions (you could be away from email or phone access for some time), leading in either case to an inability to make important decisions. Your attorney is the person you trust to act in your best interests – with your property and your wellbeing.


There are two types of EPA – property, and personal care and welfare. Your attorney can be the same person/s or you can choose different people for these two roles.


An attorney’s role

Your property attorney can manage your finances, they can sell your house if necessary and even buy Christmas and birthday gifts for specific people. Your personal care and welfare attorney can make decisions about your medical care, help choose a rest home if you need to move, and consult with other family members about your health.


Most importantly, your attorney makes decisions in your best interests; they only have as much power as you give them in your EPA. Your personal care and welfare attorney cannot, for example, withhold life-saving medical treatment; it is absolutely up to you to decide what your attorney can, and cannot, do.


Who needs an EPA?

EPAs aren’t just for the elderly. They are also for the young man who has had serious injuries in a car accident  and struggles with his memory, and for the 50-year-old who is working offshore and wants her partner to sign documents on her behalf.


Without an EPA, nobody can make decisions on your behalf if you can’t make them for yourself. Your parents, spouse or children don’t automatically have this right. The only way around this is to spend thousands of dollars working through the Family Court to get an attorney appointed.


A will

A will is the document that states where you want your assets to go after you die. Your will appoints an executor, or several executors; they will carry out the wishes that are stated in your will.


Executor’s role

An executor works with us to administer your estate and carry out the terms of your will.


Your executor calls in your assets and pays any money you may owe. They ensure, for example, that your daughter gets your engagement ring, your life insurance pays off your mortgage and they invest the rest of your money until your children turn a specified age and can get their inheritance.


Get your affairs in order

Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the intestacy rules that govern who gets what from what your estate. Without a will, your family may not get what they expect or what you want which could be very upsetting for them.


The only wrong time to get a will and an EPA is when it’s too late. Take back the power to decide where your assets go when you die, and save yourself and your family much heartache. Get in touch with us about preparing your will and EPA today.


DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650

Mandatory and default duties explained

When the Trusts Act 2019 came into force on 30 January 2021 the changes it brought were well publicised. However, not everyone is aware that the some of the provisions in this legislation also apply to wills and the administration of estates by executors. We outline executors’ mandatory and default duties as well as briefly discussing some interpretations of the latter.

The changes in trust law that came into effect on 30 January 2021 have been incorporated into estate administration law by s4B of the Administration Act 1969. It confirms that trustees’ mandatory and default duties set out in the Trusts Act also apply to executors or administrators of estates. This is an important set of protections for beneficiaries of estates who may have concerns about the way an executor is administering estate assets.

Mandatory duties for executors

Executors or administrators are now subject to mandatory duties; these cannot be modified or excluded by the terms of a will. These include the duties to:

  • Know the terms of the will
  • Act in accordance with the terms of the will
  • Act honestly and in good faith
  • Act for the benefit of the beneficiaries, and
  • Exercise powers under the will for a proper purpose.

All executors and administrators must be familiar with the terms of the will and follow it; they cannot do something contrary to the terms of the will unless all of the beneficiaries agree or the court has authorised the action.

They must act for the benefit of the beneficiaries. This can become difficult in some situations where executors or administrators have a close relationship with one beneficiary, and want to act in that beneficiary’s interests, rather than for the benefit of all beneficiaries.

Default duties

The default duties outlined in the Trusts Act 2019 also apply to executors and administrators of wills (unless the will expressly excludes them). Some of the most relevant default duties include the general duty of care, as well as duties to:

  • Invest prudently
  • Not to exercise powers for the executor or administrator’s own benefit
  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Not to profit
  • Act for no reward, and to
  • Act unanimously.

Modifying the default duties

In some circumstances, these default duties are not always appropriate to a will-maker’s circumstances. For example, often a lawyer or other professional is appointed as executor of a will, and many wills provide that professional executors can charge their usual fees, modifying the duty to act for no reward. Most professionals will not take on an executorship without being paid!

In some cases, it may be desirable for executors or administrators to invest in an asset that doesn’t seem, by ordinary standards, to be a prudent investment. Such an investment may benefit the beneficiaries (or one beneficiary), such as owning a home for a beneficiary to live in; the investment may not lead to capital growth and may not earn much (or any) income but will fulfil a social need.

Investments such as the above may bring complaints from other beneficiaries who feel an executor is favouring one beneficiary’s interests over their own.

Another example is where a will-maker leaves their spouse or partner a right to live in their joint home, and that home (an asset of the estate) does not increase in value. Such an arrangement, however, may be permitted by the will.

It might also be desirable for an executor who is also a beneficiary, to purchase an estate property in a personal capacity. It means that the executor’s personal interest – to buy the property at the lowest price – conflict with the interests of the other beneficiaries, that is to have the property sold for the highest price. The will may allow such a purchase, although to help minimise arguments, it might require a registered valuation to guide the sale price.

Lawyers’ obligations

When you’re signing your will, we will explain all the modifications of, or exclusions to, the default duties that are included in the will. We will often include executor/administrator powers that will over-ride some of the default duties, such as those we’ve explained in the paragraphs on page two.

We will also take reasonable steps to ensure that you understand the meaning and effect of any clause in your new will that modifies, or excludes, those default duties.

This is an additional safeguard to ensure that when you sign your will you understand the implications of the terms of your will. It also means that if beneficiaries have any concerns about the terms of your will, such as in one of the situations we set out on page two, they should have confidence that you intended to word your will in that way and you understood the consequences.

If you have any concerns about your own will, or of a will of which you are acting as a trustee or administrator, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Trust eSpeaking is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Trust eSpeaking may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650

Make a new will and EPAs when you separate

Many people who have endured a relationship break up know it can be exhausting – mentally, emotionally, physically and, ultimately, financially. You could be forgiven, then, for thinking the priority is to get the agreements signed or Court Orders made. However, what is often overlooked as one of the first steps, and yet so imperative to protect your assets and your new spouse, partner or children in the future, is updating your will and enduring powers of attorney (EPA) to reflect your new relationship status.


Why update your will?

There are some very good reasons why you should update your will if you separate, including:

  • Your ex-spouse/partner may still benefit under your will as it continues to be effective after you separate unless:
  • You remarry or form a civil union
  • You make a new will, or
  • The court orders otherwise.
  • If your marriage or civil union hasn’t been formally dissolved, everything remains the same (which is why you need to change your will after separation). If your marriage or civil union has been dissolved, however, your ex-spouse/partner can neither be an executor nor a beneficiary.


Those people whom you would like to benefit (such as your new spouse or partner, children or grandchildren) may have to share your estate with your ex-spouse/partner unless they can persuade them to waive their entitlement under your will by entering a deed of family arrangement. If your ex-spouse/partner refuses to waive their entitlement then your family would need to resort to a claim in the Family Court for additional provision from your estate, such as:

  • A claim by your new spouse/partner, children or grandchildren under the Family Protection Act 1955, or
  • A claim by your new spouse/partner under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.


None of the above options will be easy, and all of them could be lengthy, litigious and expensive. If you wish to ensure those people you would like to benefit when you die do in fact benefit, your first task should be to instruct your lawyer to make a new will that reflects your newly separated situation.


Appointing a testamentary guardian?

If you separate, you can ensure someone you trust will look after your children’s best interests and welfare after you die by appointing a ‘testamentary guardian’ in your will. Your testamentary guardian will have the power to make guardianship decisions about your children.


This is particularly important if any other legal guardians (such as your children’s other parent or existing court-appointed guardians) are not so suitable.


Appointing a testamentary guardian gives that guardian the right to apply for day-to-day care, it does not necessarily mean they will have the day-to-day care of your children after you die. However, if the testamentary guardian was the primary caregiver prior to your death, and it is not in the children’s best interests and welfare to be placed in the care of any other legal guardians, then the court may well grant the testamentary guardian day-to-day care.


A testamentary guardian should be someone you consider a good role model for your children. That person should be in the best position, financially and emotionally, to help care for them, be in good health and be able to ensure continuity of care for your children so they are not uplifted from their education, social group or community. Make sure you talk with your proposed guardian to ensure they can tick all these boxes before making this appointment in your will.


Why update your EPA?

If you appointed your ex-spouse/partner as your attorney in respect of EPAs for personal care and welfare and/or property, this is also not automatically revoked when you separate. It’s a similar situation as overlooking making a new will when you separate – retaining an out-of-date EPA could create a very awkward family reunion if your ex spouse/partner remains responsible for making decisions about your personal matters (which doesn’t include decisions about your children) if you lose mental capacity.


If you do not revoke your EPA after you separate, and subsequently lose mental capacity, unless the appointment of your ex spouse/partner ceases (because your ex dies, becomes mentally incapable, bankrupt, or files a notice in court under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988), the only option to remove an attorney is for your family to apply to the Family Court.


The better option? Revoke your EPAs and make new ones with your lawyer at the same time you update your will.


Do it sooner rather than later

Understandably, the idea of more legalities after a separation can be daunting and easily pushed to the back of your mind. Ignoring these issues may be easy to justify after the rigours of a separation. Ultimately, however, by not being thorough post-separation, which includes re-arranging your estate planning, you are leaving a potentially complex and expensive legal headache behind for your loved ones and much uncertainty for your children.


Get onto this sooner rather than later – the risk isn’t worth it.


DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Fineprint is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Fineprint may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650