Process for passing on shares in Māori land
When an owner dies, the Māori Land Court handles the legal process of passing on shares in Māori land from one generation to the next. If Te Tumu Paeroa looks after the land, we make sure owners can:
- contribute to discussions and decisions on the land
- get information on the land's performance, or any changes to the land
- receive distributions of any land income.
Who can succeed to Māori land
The rules for who can "succeed" to Māori land are set out in Te Ture Whenua Māori Act. These rules ensure that people who have whakapapa with that land retain ownership. Who can succeed depends on whether the person who died left a will.
If there’s a will, the land can pass to:
- direct relatives
- members the hapū associates with the land
- other owners of the land who are members of the hapū
- whāngai relatives.
Refer to Section 108 of the Act for more on who land can be left to in a will.
If there’s no will, land can pass to:
- the children of the person who died – this includes whāngai children
- other family members (if there are no children).
Husbands, wives and civil union partners can continue to receive income from the land – during their lifetime, or until they remarry or start a de facto relationship. Refer to Section 109 of the Act for more on who land can be left to if there is no will.
If you think you should succeed to Māori land
If a whānau member has died and you believe you're entitled to succeed to land, contact the Māori Land Court. They can help you find out about the land and gather the info you need. To get started, you can:
Application process for succeeding to Māori land
To succeed to Māori land, you need to make an application for succession with the Māori Land Court (regardless of whether or not there’s a will). Note that it’s not enough to register with your iwi – you need to apply directly to the court. The application can be made by:
- a family member
- a person with the right to deal with the assets of the person who has died (an “administrator” or “executor” of the estate)
- anyone who believes they are entitled to succeed to the land.
The Māori Land Court may ask about the whakapapa of the person who died. This will help them determine who is legally entitled to continue ownership of the land, and to what extent. The length of the process depends on how complex the inheritance situation is, and how much info you can provide the court.
Once the Māori Land Court decides who will inherit the land, their decision is recorded in a court order.
Make this process easy for your whānau
Passing on Māori land ensures your children, mokopuna and descendants remain connected to their whenua. Make succession easier for your whānau by taking the steps described below.
Talk to your children and other whānau about the land that you own, including:
- where it is
- what it’s called
- who looks after it, eg the Māori Trustee (Te Tumu Paeroa) a trust, or a Māori incorporation
- all of the names you might be known by
- all of the names of your parents, brothers and sisters
- anything they need to know about other people who might be entitled to inherit part of the land.
Make a will. Decide what you want to happen with your land and formalise it in a will. Talk to the Māori Land Court to check that your wishes are in line with what the law allows.
Gift land to your children while you are still alive. See the Māori Land Court publication Transferring Māori Land Shares for information on how to do this.
Set up a whānau trust to maintain ownership for the benefit of the whole whānau. Refer to:
- the Māori Land Court info page about Māori land trusts
- the Māori Land Trusts booklet (published by the Māori Land Court).