LAND COURT VS. REGULAR SYSTEM

Today I’m going to talk about the two different systems for recording ownership of real property (land and buildings) in the State of Hawaii. The “Regular System” of recording land ownership comes from the traditional English Common Law and is a “race-notice” recording system which doesn’t determine ownership—it just identifies who recorded documents first. The Land Court System, established in 1903 in Hawaii, is a “Torrens Title” system of land registration where the State guarantees

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DIGITAL ASSETS:  PASSING ON YOUR ELECTRONIC PHOTOS, FILES, ACCOUNTS, AND DATA

When a loved one passes away, probably the furthest thoughts from your mind at that time are:  How do I access and preserve their digital assets of value? And, what are their passwords?

First, let’s define “digital assets.”  A strict definition from Wikipedia is “anything that exists in a binary format and comes with the right to use. … Digital assets are classified as images, multimedia and textual content files.”  In plain English that means computer and other electronic files

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WILL YOUR WILL WORK? THE PROBLEMS WITH ONLINE WILLS AND TRUSTS

I have had several potential clients and even friends ask me my opinion about online, do-it-yourself, estate planning documents.  In recent years several websites have popped up offering a glamorous opportunity to prepare your will, trust, and/or other estate planning documents, often for a lower-cost than what a competent attorney would charge.  The online legal document service can have a strong appeal for the uninitiated and those who don’t realize what they’re getting into.

Most people

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THE ESTATE OF THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE

A few weeks ago, the news media were replete with articles about the highly successful, music genius, rock-legend Prince.  He has sadly joined the ranks of world-famous icons who have died leaving fans wanting more.  He has also apparently joined the group of such people who have died without a last will & testament.  There has been a lot of speculation about the cause of death, including suspected drug overdose, but I’ll leave that discussion to the medical examiners and toxicologists

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JOINT TENANTS

We often see clients who have been advised by someone else that holding bank accounts or real property as “Joint Tenants” (also called “Joint Tenancy”) is a cheap way to avoid probate costs.  It’s true that if one of the joint tenants passes away, the other joint tenant(s) will own the account or the property without having to go through probate court proceedings. However, joint tenancy can expose you to a lot of risks that you might not be aware of.

A woman I know of added her son on

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REVOCABLE OR IRREVOCABLE: THAT IS THE QUESTION!

When a client comes in to our law firm for the first time, they usually ask us to explain the basic concepts of estate planning and to make recommendations on how they should proceed.  Our attorneys will share with the client how doing a plan with us can help to protect them and their family from losing their assets to:  Probate; Conservatorship; Estate Taxes; Lawsuits; Divorces; and Nursing Home Costs.

We often discuss the pros and cons of a Revocable Trust versus an Irrevocable Trust.  Interestingly

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THE BIGGEST ESTATE PLANNING MISTAKE: DON’T FORGET TO FUND YOUR TRUST

One of the most common mistakes in Estate Planning is:  A person will go to a lawyer (or some non-lawyer salesperson will come to their door) and they are talked into “purchasing a Trust” to help protect the person’s assets and to avoid probate and conservatorship, which both require that the court gets involved in managing your finances when you pass away or become incapacitated.  So the client pays for a trust and receives a whole bunch of trust documents in a binder, and not understanding

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2016 ESTATE PLANNING UPDATE

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! (That’s Happy New Year in Hawaiian for those of you reading on the mainland).  Here is a 2016 update on important numbers used in Estate Planning and Medicaid Planning in Hawaii.

How much money and property can a person have at death without paying estate taxes? At the end of 2012, Congress passed a law making the exemption from estate taxes $5,000,000 (adjusted for inflation) without a built in expiration date. Taking into account inflation, the actual amount

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DON’T “SPEND DOWN” FOR MEDICAID!

When people come to us for advice on how to qualify for Medicaid to pay for their nursing home cost, we hear this phrase “Spend Down” all the time.  Many people who have researched Medicaid benefits for long term care have heard that they should “Spend Down” their assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.  In this article I will explain why this could be the worst advice a client could follow—and yet most financial planners, social workers, Medicaid Consultants, and even lawyers still

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WHY YOU NEED AN ESTATE PLAN (OR ONGOING UPDATES IF YOU ALREADY HAVE ONE)

I can already hear you thinking, “Of course I’m going to hear a lecture on why I need an estate plan, coming from an estate planning lawyer!”  Well, I decided to check with Google to see what it thought about the topic.  I ran the search “Why do I need an estate plan”, and among the top 10 pages were articles from Forbes, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, and Market Watch—all financial advisory/investment firms. They aren’t even in the business of estate planning, so why would

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