What happens to Kiwisaver funds on death?

22 May 2018

There is a common misconception that on death, Kiwisaver funds automatically pass to your surviving spouse or de facto partner.  This is not the case.

Because Kiwisaver funds are owned in the sole name of the deceased, they form part of their estate and will be distributed to the beneficiaries of their Will or, if there is no Will, in accordance with the provisions of the Administration Act 1969.

For people with a Kiwisaver balance in excess of $15,000 it will be necessary for probate of the Estate to be applied for in order to uplift the Kiwisaver funds.  Probate is the document sealed by the High Court that formally acknowledges the appointment of the Executors named in the Will.  For people with a balance of less than $15,000 the scheme provider will most likely ask for an indemnity to be signed by those applying to receive the funds, requiring that person to confirm they will apply the funds in accordance with the Will.

For those that have a Trust and leave their estate to the Trust under their Will, it can be worthwhile considering whether this should also include Kiwisaver funds.  For example, your surviving spouse may require those funds for their future living costs and it may be appropriate that they are gifted to your spouse or de facto partner upon your death, with only the remainder of your estate passing to the Trust.

It is important that your Executor is aware that you do have Kiwisaver and who the scheme provider is so they know who to contact to organise the withdrawal of the funds from the scheme.  There are numerous providers in the Kiwisaver market so without this information it can be very difficult and expensive for an executor to track down the funds.


Glenda Graham is a Partner in the Succession & Wealth Protection Team at Norris Ward McKinnon. You can contact Glenda at [email protected]

Glenda Graham