Estate Administration

Probate and Trust Administration

The loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations you’ll ever face. The Law Office of Stephen H. Reese can assist you in the administration of a loved one’s estate and/or trust. With our help, you will be able to minimize any additional stress during an already emotional time.

Compassionate, Competent Representation

Probate law is a unique and complex field. That’s why it’s important to work with a lawyer who’s ready to handle probate cases. If you need help from a probate lawyer in Honolulu, HI, call The Law Office of Stephen H. Reese. With an in-depth understanding of the complexities and requirements involved in probate cases, we offer the competent legal representation you need while handling your case with the respect and compassion you deserve.

Probate Administration and Estate Settlement

In the State of Hawaii, probate administration is not required if:

1) the value of a decedent’s gross estate, excluding any motor vehicles, is $100,000.00 or less; and 2) no application or petition for appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in Hawaii.

In a case where probate administration is not required, there may be no court appointed personal representative. In these situations, the Hawaii Revised Statutes §560:3-1201 and §560:3-1202 provide for the collection of a decedent’s assets by a successor to the decedent upon presentation of an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property of the Decedent.

In the event a decedent dies owning real property (of any value no matter how nominal) or assets titled in the decedent’s individual name, with an aggregate value exceeding $100,000.00, probate proceedings are required, whether a decedent died with a Will or without a Will.

Trust Administration

A Trust is a legal relationship that is created when:

– a party (known as the “Grantor”, “Settlor” or “Trustor”)

– transfers property to a person or company (known as the “Trustee”)

– to hold said property in accordance with the provisions of a written instrument (the trust document)

– for the benefit of one or more persons or entities (the “Beneficiaries”).

Property includes both real property (such as land and buildings) and personal property (such as bank accounts, stock and bonds, and personal effects.

Upon the death of the Grantor, the Successor Trustee is responsible for a number of things, including but not limited to:

  • identifying and collecting the Trust assets,
  • paying the decedent’s last medical expenses, funeral expenses, and other debts,
  • filing the decedent’s final individual tax returns and paying any taxes owed, and
  • distributing the trust assets pursuant to the terms of the Trust.

A Successor Trustee may also serve in the capacity as Trustee of the Trust in the event the Trustee (initially the Grantor), resigns as Trustee or becomes incapacitated.

If the Successor Trustee serves as Trustee during the life of the Grantor, the Successor Trustee shall administer the Trust pursuant to its terms for the benefit of the Grantor.

Estate Taxes

The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death. It consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death.

The fair market value of these items is used, not necessarily what you paid for them or what their values were when you acquired them. The total of all of these items is your “Gross Estate”. The includible property may consist of cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets.

The Estate Tax return must be filed within nine (months) from the decedent’s date of death. Therefore, it is important to consult with your accountant as soon as possible if you believe the value of the decedent’s assets exceeds the exemption amount.

The Gift Tax is a tax on the transfer of property by one individual to another while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return.

The Gift Tax applies whether the donor intends the transfer to be a gift or not. If a Gift is made during lifetime, a Gift Tax return should be filed at the time the gift is made. Gift Taxes will not need to be paid if your gift tax exemption is allocated to the gift.

The Gift Tax is tied to the Estate Tax. The Federal Estate and Gift Tax exemption amount was set at $5 million in 2011, indexed for inflation. The Estate and Gift Tax exemption amount for 2016 was $5.45 million and for 2017 is $5.49 million.

This means that in 2017, an individual can give $5.49 million during their lifetime and/or upon their death without paying any estate tax. For example, if an individual gifted property worth $2 million in 2016, while they were alive, then dies in 2017, the remaining $3.49 million of the individual’s assets will transfer tax free to his or her beneficiaries. Anything above that will be taxed at the Estate tax rate.

Hawaii’s Estate and Gift Tax exemption amount is identical to the Federal Estate and Gift Tax exemption amount. Other states have state Estate and Gift Tax exemptions that differ from the Federal Estate and Gift Tax exemption.