Becoming a landowner
Applying for succession
When whānau are ready to succeed to the whenua, get in touch with kaimahi at the Māori Land Court — they can help you with your application.
When you’re ready to start your succession application, gather together all the information you’ve already found about your whānau member who died, and everyone you think is eligible to succeed to them. It’s good to have it at your fingertips when you start filling in an application form.
You can get a succession application form:
- from your local Māori Land Court office
- from the Māori Land Court website, or
- by phoning the court and asking them to post or email you the form you need.
There are different forms depending on your circumstances — for example, if your Mum or your Nan left a will or not. Our form finder tool can help you work out which one’s right for you.
Which form should I use?
Filling in the form
The application forms go into a lot of detail — but it’s all important. The Māori Land Court use the information you share with them to:
- find details of all the Māori freehold land or Māori incorporations the whānau member who died had interests in, and
- make sure they’re looking at the right records when they research your succession application.
The form will ask you for:
- the names of everyone applying to succeed
- details about the whānau member who died and your relationship to them
- your whakapapa.
It’ll also ask you to provide some supporting documents with your application — there’s a checklist at the back of each form that will tell you what you need. The kind of documents you’ll be asked for include:
- a copy of the death certificate for your whānau member (either the original, or a copy)
- a copy of their will, if there is one (either the original, or a certified copy)
- details of probate, if it has been granted
- any letters of administration that have been granted
- adoption certificates for any tamariki your whānau member legally adopted into the whānau.
If you submit your application at an Māori Land Court office, kaimahi will take a copy of the documents and then return them to you. If you apply by post, you can ask to have your documents returned to you on the day of your succession hearing.
Certified copies of documents
If you don’t want to send an original copy of a document to the Māori Land Court with your application, you can send a certified copy instead.
A certified copy is one that someone who is authorised by law — like a Justice of the Peace — stamps or signs to confirm that it matches the original. In New Zealand you can get documents certified by:
- a Justice of the Peace (JP)
- a lawyer
- a notary public
- a court official, or
- certain ranks of police officers.
It's free to see a JP in New Zealand. You can make an appointment to see a JP at their home, or you could ask your local public library or Citizens Advice Bureau if they have a service desk you can visit.
If you don't have the original version of a document — if you only have a copy — you can sign a statutory declaration form stating that the copy you have matches the original. The JP will ask you to sign the form during your appointment.
Probate and letters of administration
Before someone dies, they may decide to create a will giving instructions for what they want to happen to any property or assets they own after their death. When they die, their property and assets become known as their “estate”.
A will names the person who will administer the estate — they're known as the "executor" of the will. This person may need to apply to the High Court to prove that they have the right to administer the estate. This is called "getting probate" or "probating the will".
If a person dies without leaving a will, you may need to apply to the High Court for “letters of administration” (instead of probate). If you're not sure if you need to do this, talk to kaimahi at the Māori Land Court.
If you need help to fill in the application form
If you need any help completing your application, have a chat to kaimahi at the Māori Land Court. They can help you make sure you include all the information you need in the form, and will show you where to look for any information you’re missing.
They may be able to help cover the cost of any documents you need to get hold of too, like a death certificate, for example.