SCOTT C. SUZUKI, ATTORNEY AT LAW
We've moved to:
1013 Poha Lane
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
(808) 983-3850

Estate Planning


As you get older, you may need help with finances and  healthcare decisions.  Having the necessary legal documents in place will allow your family to assist you.
 

Hawaii homes that are not in Trust, may have to go through Probate.  Want to learn more about how to avoid Probate? Call us, we can help.


Whether your estate is considered big or small, we can help you.

 
Your children, young and old, can benefit from you creating an estate plan.


We know your furry family members are important too.  We can help you with a Pet Trust. 


Call our office today to discuss with us your estate planning needs.

808-983-3850 

COMMON ESTATE PLANNING MISCONCEPTIONS
Scott C. Suzuki, J.D., M.P.H., is a Hawaii-licensed attorney in private practice.  This is a simplified discussion of general legal issues and is not intended as legal advice. 

"I own a home, but I don't have a lot of cash. I don't need a Trust."
You don't NEED a trust.
Your estate will simply go through probate.  Real property that is owned in the name of a decedent will most likely have to go through probate.  Probate is not the "end of the  world," but probate can add time and costs to the administration of your estate.  One of the easiest and most practical ways of avoiding probate for your real property is to transfer it to a trust.  With a trust, you will also have control over how your estate will be distributed and who will be informed of the administration.  Probates, on the other hand, are part of the public record and may require notice or distributions to people you do not want to receive notice or distributions.

"I am married. My spouse will get everything automatically when I die.  My spouse won't have to worry about a Probate, even if I don't have my assets in Trust."
NOT ALWAYS.  Your assets do not automatically transfer to people based on blood relationship to them.  Assets transfer based on certain legal arrangements, such as a "right of survivorship" on jointly owned assets, contracts such as life insurance, or other arrangements such as wills and trusts.  Even having some of these arrangements does not guarantee an "automatic" transfer to your intended beneficiary.  Based on this, it is really important to review how your assets are owned, who the beneficiaries are, and if there are any conditions upon which your  beneficiaries can access the money.  To make matters even more complicated, there are also frequently tax considerations for making transfers, even at your death.  Having a spouse receive your estate outright upon your death could cause your spouse's estate to have an estate tax liability that could have been avoided with proper planning. We have cases/clients who require a Probate when a spouse dies because their estate was not properly managed.

"I have a Trust but I didn't change my accounts or put my home in Trust.  It shouldn't be a problem."
WRONG.
  Your Trust documents do approximately nothing until you "fund" your Trust. You must do your homework and transfer your accounts to your Trust (or change the beneficiary depending on the type of account).  Make sure you know which accounts to change and the possible Tax and Medicaid implications for such changes.

"I told my family verbally what I want and who should get the house.  They will do what I say."
NOT A GOOD IDEA.
  We like to assume everyone is fair and that people "do the right thing", but it doesn't always work out that way.  Remember, oral agreements do not guarantee what will happen to your estate , especially when it comes to real property (your home).  Save your family the trouble and have an estate plan done to avoid family friction and/or confusion.

"I don't have time or money to make an estate plan.  It is too expensive and I don't need it."
QUESTION.
How can you afford not to?  Get a quote for your estate planning documents, then compare it to your car insurance.  If you have been driving for 30 years and paid $100 per month, that is over $36,000.00 you paid into something you may never use.  Remember, estate planning can help everyone because the truth of the matter is, you may never get into a car accident, but one day you will pass away.  An estate plan can possibly save you time and money in the long run by avoiding certain administrative expenses (such as probate fees), and reducing the amount of taxes or even nursing home bills you may have in the future. 

Finding the time to create an estate plan is similar to doing physical therapy after surgery.  If you want to get better, you will do the stretches and exercises your physical therapists helps you with.  If you don't do them, your condition may deteriorate.  Finding the time to do the exercises will make you feel much better.  Most of our clients are surprised at how painless the process can be and leave our office with a sense of relief that they finally got around to doing their estate planning.

"I don't own a home. An Estate Plan won't provide me with any benefit."
WRONG.  If you don't own a home and have assets under the Probated amount, it is possible you do not need a Trust. BUT, there are other problems that may arise.  Who do you want to inherit your assets upon your death?  Can you pay for long-term care out of pocket?  If you become incapacitated, who has legal authority to help you out?  It is important that you have some legal documents in place for these and other situations.  Don't wait until it is too late or too costly for your family to help you.  People often think they don't have enough money to have to worry about estate planning.  You will be surprised how a little money can cause some serious problems for your family if you do not have any legal documents in place.  We have had cases where we had to do a guardianship and/or a conservatorship to help manage estates as little as $15,000.00 because of the lack of planning.