“When is probate necessary?”
That depends on what the decedent owned at death. If the decedent owned any kind of real estate in Hawaii, there will have to be a probate in Hawaii. Even if the decedent owned only personal property (such as bank accounts and stocks), if decedent was a resident of Hawaii at death there will have to be a probate if the assets are worth $100,000 or more. But if the decedent was a Hawaii resident with only personal property worth less than $100,000, the estate may not need probate.
“If the decedent wasn’t a Hawaii resident but owned land in Hawaii, what happens?”
Generally, a probate must be done in every state where someone owned real estate. Thus, there will need to be a probate in Hawaii even though a probate is also being done in the decedent’s home state.
“What does probate involve?”
Probate involves filing documents in court and, if necessary, getting orders signed by a judge. A petition is filed and a personal representative (the “PR”) is appointed. The PR then does everything needed to distribute the estate. If the decedent had a will, property is given to the people named in the will. If the decedent did not have a will, the property goes to the people specified by law. Usually court hearings are not necessary, but during the probate numerous documents are filed with the court to show how the estate is being handled. Beneficiaries are sent copies of the most important of these documents.
“Is there any way to handle an estate without doing a full probate?”
Depending on the size of the estate, there may be some simpler options, especially for an Ancillary Probate.
“How long does probate take?”
The minimum time in Hawaii is 6 months, but often probate for a Hawaii resident takes 9 to 18 months. Some of the other possible options may take less time.
“How much does probate cost?”
Hawaii law no longer requires a fee equal to a percentage of the value of the probate assets. Most attorneys charge on an hourly basis, so the cost depends on how much time is required by the case. Legal fees for a full probate usually will run several thousand dollars, with the final cost depending on the facts and problems encountered during the case. Out-of-pocket costs (for court filing fees, newspaper publication, etc.) will add an additional $200 to $700, or more, especially if real estate appraisals are required. If a Personal Representative has been appointed in a state other than Hawaii, there is a simplified procedure for getting that Personal Representative the authority to act in Hawaii. That simplified procedure (called Application for Acknowledgment of Authority) generally costs considerably less than a full probate.