Till death do us part: KiwiSaver in a break-up or passing

The upkeep of a KiwiSaver scheme is pretty straightforward; it’s about making regular contributions and choosing the right investment strategy.

But what about those moments in life where the situation becomes a little more complicated?

Here we look at what happens to your KiwiSaver account in two undesirable, yet common scenarios: separating and passing away.

When love leaves the room…

Separate property or relationship property?

Are you in the process of dissolving a marriage or long-term partnership? Even in amicable splits, you may often find yourself asking ‘Where to from here?’ – especially if you share assets, as many couples do.

For example, you may have heard that your partner is entitled to part of your KiwiSaver funds – which is mostly true; it depends on when your contributions were made. Put simply, the portion of your KiwiSaver fund that existed prior to the relationship is ‘separate property’ and doesn’t need to be divided. On the other hand, any contributions made during the relationship (and the growth they have generated) are classed as ‘relationship property’ and up for division in a split.

When can funds be accessed?

Even if your KiwiSaver funds are up for division, keep in mind that your money can’t be accessed straight away; with very few exceptions, you need to wait until you turn 65.

To compensate, couples sometimes choose to split the remaining relationship properties. For example, if you have KiwiSaver funds and it is agreed that you will keep them, your spouse may get a higher share of the other assets to the equivalent of their lost interest in your KiwiSaver.

Splitting assets can be one of the most contentious aspects of the separation, but it’s much easier when both parties know what to expect. So make sure that you get expert help every step of the way, and don’t hesitate to contact us for any KiwiSaver-related questions you may have.

KiwiSaver and your passing

Death – it’s a topic that’s often shied away from, but when it comes to yours and your family’s financial future, it’s important to be prepared for life’s realities.

How your KiwiSaver balance will be handled upon your death largely hinges on one key question: is there a Will?

According to a 2017 survey by Perpetual Guardian, 4 in 10 New Zealanders have not set up their Will yet. If you are one of them, keep in mind that, without a Will in place, the distribution of your assets and property may not be carried out as you expect. And this includes your KiwiSaver.

Will or no Will?

In a nutshell, without a Will your KiwiSaver balance will not automatically be paid out to your family. In fact, they will need the High Court to appoint your estate’s administrator, who then has the right to manage the funds. This process can be costly and time-consuming – and there’s no guarantee that the money will go to the right people.

On the other hand, having a Will means that your KiwiSaver funds will be distributed to your Estate as you wanted. But keep in mind that, if your KiwiSaver balance and/or combined total assets are higher than $15,000, even if you have a Will, your family will need to apply for probate to the High Court.

You can also learn more about the other realities of what happens if you die without a Will here as well. 


KiwiSaver is all about saving for yours and your family’s future, whatever it may bring – for better or worse. If you have any questions about protecting this asset, or would like to talk about your KiwiSaver options, please get in touch.

Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current development or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance

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