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Losing your partner

Losing your partner - a dad on the beach with his son

Losing your partner is a difficult time to have to deal with money issues. There will be a lot to sort out, but you don’t have to do everything at once. There are some things that you will need to take care of now, and others that you can put in place for the future.

What you need to take care of now

Funeral costs

You will need to think about the kind of send-off you want for your partner, but also about what you can afford. Talk to a funeral director about the options available to you. Even a basic funeral can be expensive but check if the costs are covered by your partner’s life insurance policy or other savings.

If your partner has died as a result of an injury, ACC can help towards the costs of their burial, cremation and related ceremonies. There’s helpful information on the ACC website about their funeral grants.

If your partner is a beneficiary, Work and Income may help with funeral costs and ongoing living expenses. You can find out more on the Work and Income website.

Wills and estates

A will formally spells out how your partner’s assets (their ‘estate’) should be dealt with after their death. It may also include instructions for their funeral.

An estate could include things such as property, car, bank accounts, investments, KiwiSaver – anything your partner owned in their name.

You will need to find a copy of your partner’s will or the solicitor or trustee company (e.g. Public Trust) they made their will through.

Until the will is settled (this is called ‘probate’) you may not be able to access your partner’s assets.

If your partner dies without having made a will, the law decides who among your family gets their assets. They may be divided differently to the way your partner would have wished.  

For example, with married couples there is a set formula where the surviving partner will get the first amount in the estate, then the balance is divided between the partner and any children.

Find out more about wills.

Under the Property Relationships Act, if you have been in a relationship for three years or more, you are entitled to half your partner’s ‘relationship property’ if they die. Unless you have made your own separate agreement.

Find out more about relationships.

Bank accounts

If you and your partner had a joint bank account, you may need to talk with your bank about changing your account details. Or you may need to discuss with your partner’s bank about gaining access to their personal accounts.

If you receive a life insurance payout, your bank will be able to advise you about appropriate savings or term deposit options to store the money in the short-term. 

KiwiSaver and superannuation

If your partner has been paying into a KiwiSaver or other superannuation scheme, the money will be paid into their estate and will be dealt with along with their other assets.

For some workplace superannuation schemes, a benefit (similar to a life insurance payment) may also be paid on death. In some schemes it is the scheme trustee's responsibility to determine who the benefit is paid to - so it's helpful if your partner’s preferences are made clear in their will.

Tax matters

If you are finalising your partner’s tax affairs you’ll need to talk with Inland Revenue. Their website has information about tax issues after a bereavement to help you.

Insurance

If your partner had life insurance, you could be entitled to a lump sum payout. Check with your partner’s insurance company.

If the payout is a significant amount you may want to consider your investment options.

Once you feel able, you will also need to review and update your own insurance policies - especially if you have children. If your partner was named as the beneficiary in your policies, that will also need to change.

Planning for the future

If your partner’s death means a change in your household income, it's important to know exactly where your money comes from and where it goes.

Take stock

Work out your net worth - list all your assets and any debts or joint debts in your name. Our net worth calculator can help you do this.

If you have debts to pay off, use our debt calculator to make a repayment plan.

Make a plan

No matter how much or how little you have to play with, sticking to a budget will put you in control of your money.  Use our money planner to work out a plan for your income and spending.

When you’re better able to focus on the future, you will need to set some new financial goals. The goals worksheet will help you through this process.

If you have investments, you will also need to check whether there has been a change to your risk profile that may require you to change what types of investments you have.

For example, you may want to be in more conservative investments for a period while you sort things out. Use our investment planner.

Where to go for help

mightymouse