Limitation law 

Why do we have a limitation law?
The reason we have a Limitation law is to protect people against “stale claims”. The law encourages you to make any claim you may feel you have (for money or other recompense) in a timely fashion by setting out the maximum time you can wait before filing a lawsuit or making a claim.

The length of time you have to file your claim after the event depends on:

  • the type of lawsuit
  • the circumstances of the lawsuit and claim
  • where the claim is filed

It’s best to seek legal advice regarding your specific situation.

In New Zealand the Limitation Act 1950 applies to claims on events that took place on or before 31 December 2010, while the Limitation Act 2010 applies to claims on events that took place after that date.

Under the 2010 Act, if you are recovering a debt you must bring the claim within 6 years of the event your claim is based on. 

Back to top

My father died 20 years ago without leaving a will. My brother handled his estate and didn't give me a cent. Is it too late to doing anything about it?

Generally if it has been longer than 12 months since probate has been granted and the estate has already been distributed, then it is probably too late to take the matter to court.

If you feel it is appropriate, you could try having a discussion with the estate administrator (i.e. your brother) about your father's will to see if you can get more information and a better understanding of what happened at the time and why. 

You could also try having discreet conversations with other family members who may be able to provide you with a clearer picture of the situation - especially if discussing the matter with your brother is not possible. Sometimes these discussions can result in a positive outcome for people in your situation, with no need for further action to be taken.

However if you wish to take the matter further, then you could try seeking legal advice to help you explore the options available to you.

For more information on issues with wills, see our Wills-after death page.            

Back to top

I lent some money to a friend several years ago. He’s never paid me back. Can I still chase him  up to repay it?

Whether the debt has arisen from an informal arrangement or an unpaid bill or services or goods, if the debt is older than 6 years then generally you can't take the debtor to court over it, unless:

  • a court has ordered the debtor to pay, or  
  • the debtor has paid a portion of the debt within the last 6 years, or 
  • the debtor admits in writing that they owe you the money.

The 6-year period begins from when the person borrowed the money (or incurred the debt by agreeing to pay you for your goods or services), or when they last made a part-payment.

It’s best to seek legal advice regarding your specific situation.

Also see our Money section for more information about debt recovery.