Dying Intestate: A Case Study from Jimi Hendrix

7 Oct 2022
Author: DTI Lawyers
Dying Intestate: A Case Study from Jimi Hendrix

Dying Intestate: A Case Study from Jimi Hendrix

Your Will. It is one of the most important documents you will sign in your lifetime. Yet, it is a document that many people fail to put in place, with many people deferring it for a later date. But what happens if you die without a Will, or in a state of “intestacy”?

Jimi Hendrix’s Estate

Jimi Hendrix, one of the most famous musicians of all time, died tragically in 1970 at the age of 27. Hendrix had wanted his brother Leon to receive his substantial estate. However, as he did not have these intentions formalised in a Will, his estate went to his abusive father through the law of ‘intestacy’. Hendrix’s father later died, with a Will which excluded Leon from receiving any of the estate.

Fifty years on, Hendrix is one of the world’s highest earning posthumous celebrities, with an estate that continues to generate millions of dollars each year. The saga of how the estate should be distributed remains a bitter and costly battle within the Hendrix family, one that could have been avoided if Jimi had a Will in place before his death.

Dying Intestate

Having a Will is important to determine who receives your estate upon your death. It also allows you to provide funeral directions and make gifts to specific persons. If you pass away without a Will, you die ‘intestate’. Your estate will be dealt with according to the Administration Act 1969, which may mean that your estate is distributed in a manner contrary to your wishes.

The Court will appoint an administer of your estate, in the order of your spouse, your children, your parents, and then your de facto partner. This is problematic where you do not have strong relationships with these people or prefer to have someone else that you trust administer your estate. 

Examples of how the Courts administer your estate include:

  1. If you die intestate and you have a partner and two children who survive you:
  2. your partner would receive:
  3. all your personal chattels (including cars, furniture and jewellery);
  4. $155,000.00 (as per regulation 5 of the Administration (Prescribed Amounts) Regulations 2009); and
  5. one third of your remaining property. 
  6.  Your two children would each receive one of the last two thirds of your property.
  7. If you die and you have separated from your spouse but have not legally dissolved your marriage, your spouse will take priority over any de facto partner you have entered into a relationship with.
  8. If you die and you have no partner or children, your estate would be distributed to your parents if they are alive, or to your siblings, if your parents have passed away.

It is also a much more expensive exercise to administer an estate where someone passes away without a Will, and the beneficiaries may end up waiting a long time before they receive the assets of the estate. That is where DTI Lawyers can help -we can draft you a Will which accurately reflects your testamentary wishes. 

To find more information on choosing an Executor, please read the following article: https://www.dtilawyers.co.nz/news-item/the-role-of-an-executor-of-a-will

Funeral Directions

A Will allows you to direct the executors of your Will to carry out your funeral intentions. Do you want to be buried in the family plot with your late husband? Do you want to be cremated? That favourite song of yours that you dance to with your friends, do you want it to be played at the funeral service? By giving funeral directions, you can plan ahead for the day that is about the celebration of your life and take some stress away from your family.

Guardianship of your Children

If you have children under the age of 18, your Will can appoint a testamentary guardian for them. This could be a parent, a sibling, or even a close friend. It’s a common misconception that a testamentary guardian will have the day-to-day care of the child. The role of a testamentary guardian is to act as an overseer in the child’s life until they reach the age of 18. They have a right to be involved in important decisions about a child’s upbringing including education, religion, health, and residence. If a guardian wishes to have day to day care of your child, they will need to apply to the Court for a parenting order.  You should consider the potential guardian’s financial position, location, and the relationship they currently have with your children.


Do you own a piece of jewellery that has been passed down to each eldest child of your family? If you want to continue this tradition, you will need to include it in your Will. Gifts are made to your chosen recipients before the rest of your estate is dealt with. Gifts may be items that do not necessarily have large monetary value but are sentimental and priceless. Gifts can be specific items including jewellery, money, taonga, family heirlooms, vehicles, even something as unique as a clock.


Pets are often very important members of a family. But what happens to them when we die? You can make a provision in your Will so that a specific person receives your beloved pet rabbit, Ruby. You can also provide that person with a token sum of money to go towards the maintenance and welfare of your pet. This ensures that your pet will go to a loving home and receive all the love and attention that they deserve.

How DTI Lawyers can Help

The thought of dying is never a nice one. It is much easier to ignore it or rather think that you have plenty of time to sort it all out. But we never know what tomorrow will bring. For your family, and your peace of mind we recommend that you have your Will drafted or updated today.

If you already have a Will, you can update your Will at any time. It is important to update your Will when big life events occur, including buying a house, getting married, and having children.

You can contact our specialist team at DTI Lawyers by phone on 07 282 0174 or email us directly at reception@dtilawyers.co.nz