Trusts Wils Estates Gifting



Ron Thomson and Helena Austen are Trust specialists with comprehensive experience (including overseas) in this legal area.

They are supported by Maryanne Little, a registered legal executive specialising in estate administration, personal estate planning as well as providing support in the trust administration and property law areas and Kathy Webb, also a legal executive, with many years’ experience managing our HFL trust administration service for our client trusts and providing assistance with estate planning and succession matters.


Trusts can be used for many reasons, including:

  • to hold and protect assets,
  • as a means of providing for the needs of future generations,
  • to “ring-fence” and separate business assets from private assets,
  • to help separate assets not intended to be jointly owned by people in a relationship,
  • to hold assets for a wide group of beneficiaries where individual ownership would be impractical and
  • to undertake charitable work.

Our experienced Trust team advises on all aspects of trust work providing a personalised and tailored approach to help you decide if a family trust or other trust structure is advantageous for you in your situation.  We can advise on implications of the use of trusts in corporate, family or succession structures.

We attend to the formation of trusts, assist with the transfer of assets into trust and set up suitable gifting and/or forgiveness of debt arrangements.  We are knowledgeable about potential impacts of gifting and can advise on ways to minimise negative repercussions of making lifetime gifts.

 We are able to offer independent trustee services through established corporate trustees or by incorporating a private trust company to act specifically as trustee for your trust.

 Once the trust is set up you will receive comprehensive trust administration services, advice on trust governance, assistance with compliance requirements and reminders to hold periodic reviews to protect your trust’s integrity.

You will benefit from our experience in meeting requirements for keeping existing trusts up to date and “fit for purpose”, and with reorganisation of trust structures, resettlements, variations, winding up of trusts, interpretation of trust deeds, clarifying trustee obligations and duties and assessing the rights of beneficiaries.

Asset protection and succession planning

 We provide advice and guidance to individuals and families on a range of succession issues and are dedicated to finding practical and effective solutions to protect your assets and ensure financial security for the future. For example, it may be sensible to use life insurance structures to ensure continuity of a business upon the death of a key individual.  We are familiar with the documentation needed for such arrangements.

We are experienced in dealing with the frequently complicated issues that surround blended and extended families and have advised generations of New Zealand families on their business, farming and property interests, including facilitating inter-generational transition through appropriate structures.

You will benefit from our experience of asset ownership and trust structures and have a thorough understanding of requisite areas of law (i.e. trusts, relationship property, commercial, legal and beneficial types of ownership) as well as a grasp of the family practicalities that all need to be considered to establish successful and enduring structures. Through our professional partners, we are able to provide specialist tax advice.

You will benefit from our holistic approach to succession planning so that personal estate planning documentation (such as living and testamentary wills, enduring and general powers of attorney) and trust documentation (such as memoranda of wishes and deeds dealing with transfer of powers of appointment and removal of trustees) remain appropriate, are consistent with one another and the overall ownership structure.

Contentious trusts and estates issues, litigation and dispute resolution

Working closely with our litigation team, we advise clients on contentious issues involving claims against trustees and executors at common law and under the Trustee Act 1956, Family Protection Act 1952, Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 and Wills Act 2007.

We are able to assist in early resolution of trust and estate disputes through mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes.

Estate administration

Estate administration is the process of carrying out a deceased person's wishes usually set out by them in their most recent will. When a person dies, their ‘estate’ is administered by their personal representatives (referred to as executors if appointed in the Will or as administrators, where there is no Will). This involves collecting assets forming part of the estate, ensuring the deceased person’s debts are paid and then divided up and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will (if there is one), or according to the Administration Act 1969 if a person dies without a Will (intestate).

We handle all aspects of estate administration, including the strictly legal matters such as making necessary applications to the High Court for Probate and Letters of Administration and less common applications such as those to validate a will that has been incorrectly executed, liquidating financial assets and securities, selling and distributing property and updating ownership records and as well the more administrative aspects such as assisting with funeral arrangements, arranging for cancellation of utilities, pensions and other services.

We are experienced with managing conflicts, dealing with aggrieved beneficiaries or others such as partners or spouses who wish to make claims under the Family Protection Act 1995, Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 or the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 as well administration of the estate where trusts or other family structures or entities are involved.

If you engage us to help you with this process you will benefit from our supportive and friendly manner and our efficient service tailored to meet your needs and those of the estate. 

 International aspects

We can advise offshore clients migrating to New Zealand on all New Zealand trust and tax aspects of their move. We can assist with re-sealing foreign grants of probate in New Zealand and can obtain the re-sealing of New Zealand grants of probate overseas.