FAQs About Estate Planning
Estate planning can be complex, leaving you with a lot of questions. Some of the most common questions we receive at the Law Office of Suzanne T. Terada include:
Why is it important to have an estate plan?
Estate planning is important for everyone to help get their affairs in order. A proper estate plan can help protect all of the things you have worked hard for in your life. It is also important to create an estate plan, so you can:
- Protect and provide for your loved ones when you are no longer able to
- Help prevent conflicts and issues involving your estate in the future
- Make important decisions about your health and assets when you are no longer able to
An estate plan can make things easier and less stressful for you and your family.
What happens if you do not make a will?
If someone passes away without a will, they have died intestate. This means that the court will take over a loved one’s estate and assets for distribution. This can lead to many complications, including:
- A court-appointed administrator
- The cost of going through probate usually exceeds the cost of administering a trust
- Asset distribution by the court’s decision, not your own
- A greater chance of conflict between family members
When someone dies intestate, their wishes are not often taken into account. Creating a will can help you clearly outline your wishes for your loved ones and your assets.
When should you update an estate plan?
A common misconception of estate plans is that you cannot change it once you establish it. On the contrary, it is important to consistently update your estate plan to reflect your current life situation and needs. Some reasons to update your estate plan include:
- The death of a family member
- An addition to the family, such as a birth
- Divorce or remarrying
- You wish to change your personal representative
- You acquire significant assets or property
State laws regarding estate plans also change consistently. It is essential to consult with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney who is always abreast of the laws to make sure your estate plan is valid.
What is the difference between advance health care directives and powers of attorney?
An Advance Health Care Directive (“AHCD”) provides instructions to your medical provider(s). Your AHCD will clearly establish your wishes for any health care decisions, including whether you wish to receive end of life treatments. For example, one of the most common directives are orders stating whether to resuscitate.
A General Power of Attorney identifies your attorney-in-fact and authorizes your attorney in fact to pay your bills, sign for financial responsibility at the hospital, and make financial decisions. If you are in the hospital, you will still want your rent, maintenance fees, mortgage, and other monthly bills paid.
Although the documents have different purposes, it is important to establish both of them to protect your wishes.
What are the responsibilities of a personal representative?
The official term for a personal representative is executor. This is the person established in the will to carry out the wishes included in the will.
In Hawaii, a personal representative must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Their duties generally involve:
- Filing the will with probate court
- Paying any remaining debts or taxes on the decedent’s property
- Taking inventory of the decedent’s property and assets
- Valuing all of the assets in the inventory
- Distributing the assets to beneficiaries
The role of a personal representative can be a difficult one. A lawyer can help protect your rights and the wishes of your loved one throughout the entire probate process.
Contact Us For Answers
At the Law Office of Suzanne T. Terada, we are available to answer all of your estate planning questions with personalized assistance. Email our firm in Honolulu or call 808-379-3534 to arrange a consultation. We offer free consultations to AARP members.