Part of the legal scene since 2010, Arnet Law was started by Gavin Arnett as sole practitioner. He was joined by his first staff member in 2011 and in 2015 the firm took on its first additional lawyer. Essentially, it has taken on a new lawyer every year since.
With the building surge across Auckland, do people need to seek legal advice before signing building contracts with reputable companies or are those issued by recognised building companies generally ‘fairly standard’ and ‘pretty safe’?
Absolutely, and we encourage this. Building a new home is a big decision to make and, to be honest, it’s not for the faint hearted. There is a lot involved; it’s very time consuming and there is a lot to the contract. Most contracts are very standard yet there are always things that people say they don’t understand, or that they weren’t expecting. Knowledge is power, as they say, and it’s important that people take advice and ensure they understand what they are signing up to, particularly when a building a home is often the biggest investment they will ever make.
In light of the Government re-assessing family trusts in recent years is there any point in the average couple having a trust ? Will a simple trust protect their assets in their retirement years?
There were significant changes to trust law, particularly concerning gifting and the payment of rest home subsidies under the last National government. If someone is self employed, or one party to a relationship is self employed then we would almost always recommend having a trust as a form of asset protection.
If neither party is self employed then they have very little or no risk to their daily lives and trusts are less likely to be beneficial for them. However, there are more reasons for having trusts than asset protection.
Trusts are a very useful estate planning mechanism, people with strained relationships with children, or family members, will often use family trusts as a way of ensuring their wishes are fulfilled on death. Trusts established a long time ago can give some protection in retirement years however, it is unlikely that if you form a trust now you would not have to pay for your care in later years.
How important is it for young, single people, who are not in a relationship, to have a will and why?
Making a will is very simple, and relatively cheap. Nowadays, with Kiwisaver and the like, most people have an asset on death that needs to be dealt with. Having a will means you have a say on what happens to your asset on your death. If you have assets when you die and no will, the tidying up of your affairs, once you are gone, is much more complicated.
How important is it for couples to have a property agreement?
Couples may not necessarily need a Contracting Out Agreement or “Prenup,” however, we recommend they carefully consider whether they should have one and seek advice. The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 provides in general terms that after a couple have been in a relationship for three years (whether they are married or de facto, gay or straight) all assets that are used for relationship purposes become jointly owned.
There are always exceptions to the general rule and specific advice is needed, case by case. However, if you want to ensure that upon a relationship not lasting the test of time, you can leave the relationship with the assets you came with, then you should have a Contracting Out Agreement.
Some people buy a lifestyle block with the idea of subdividing in future. How important is it for them to seek proper advice before purchasing land for such purposes and why?
Subdivision rules are very complicated, and subdivision is not easily done. If this is your intention it is imperative to seek the correct advice, not only from a lawyer, but from a planner or surveyor and an accountant.
Your firm specialises in commercial, property and family law but can you help with other legal issues?
Absolutely! We have recently had a criminal barrister join us at our premises. He works for himself and is a few doors along the hallway. For civil litigation and other matters we have great relationships with a number of barristers so that we can ensure all our clients’ needs are met.