In Hawaii, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you really want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for really implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such choices for you, if you are unable.
A reliable estate planner in Hawaii may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Additionally, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Hawaii
Estate plans in Hawaii almost always have these elements:
Will: A will permits you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can typically give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Luckily, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make important decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: The determination of what should be done with your body after you die is a very personal one. If you have a preference on this, for religious, or other, reasons, you should discuss this with a family member in advance. You should further put your wishes in writing, but you should not put it ONLY in a will; wills aren't always read immediately after the person who wrote it died. Sometimes, weeks, or even months, go by before the will is read. Obviously, by then it will almost definitely be too late to implement your wishes.
Do I Need a Hawaii Estate Planning Attorney?
These decisions are normally considered extremely significant. For that reason, you will likely find that the cost of hiring a Hawaii attorney to be well worth its cost.
Interesting Facts About Hawaii
Hawaii is nicknamed "The Aloha State" and is the newest U.S. state, being added as the 50th state only in the year 1959. The state capitol of Hawaii is Honolulu, one of Hawaii's major cities. Hawaii's state government is unique in that it has several remnants and adaptations carrying over from Hawaii's early kingdom era.
Hawaii laws are mostly the product of its bicameral state legislature, which meets at the State Capitol building, Aliiolani Hale, located in Honolulu. The historic capitol building houses a Judiciary History Center featuring multi-media presentations of several landmark Hawaii legal cases. In 2006, the American Bar Association hosted a mock-trial presentation of the Massie Trial, a famous Honolulu criminal trial dating back to the year 1932.
Unlike other U.S. states, Hawaii does not operate any municipal governments- all localities are administered through the county system. Hawaii's judicial system is composed of the Hawaii State Circuit Courts (the lowest level), followed by an Intermediate Court of Appeals. The Hawaii Supreme Court is the highest court. Hawaii also maintains a few courts focused on specific issues, such as the Hawaii Land Court and the Hawaii State Tax Appeal Court.
Lawyers in Hawaii are well-versed in the laws and legal issues of the state. Hawaii attorneys typically file most of their claims at the Circuit Courts, which have broad jurisdiction over most common legal claims. Hawaii lawyers also process more complex claims and appeals through the Court of Appeals or through the Hawaii Supreme Court.