Estate Planning FAQ

Get the answers you need from an experienced attorney

Estate planning can be complicated, especially if you have assets in the United States but live in another country. There are many laws that apply to the distribution of assets after death and appropriate documentation is required. When you think about estate planning, it’s normal to have a lot of questions. Hongo Law Office, LLLC can help you find answers.

Our goal is to make the process easier for everyone. Attorney Yuka Hongo helps clients in Japan and Hawaii make sense of estate planning. She can guide you through the process every step of the way and help you overcome any language or cultural barriers to create a plan that meets your needs.

Questions that people often ask about estate planning include:

Attorney Hongo is ready to meet with you to answer your questions, review your financial situation and create an estate plan to prepare for the future. Contact us to schedule a consultation at our Honolulu office. Attorney Hongo can also meet with you in Japan, which she typically visits twice a year.

Why do I need an estate plan?

An estate plan lets you decide how you want your money and property to be distributed after you are gone. If you don’t make these decisions now, a court will make them after you die. Planning can also help your family avoid attorney fees and court costs. An estate plan also allows you to appoint someone to make certain decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

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What is my estate?

Your estate is composed of your assets – everything you own that has financial value. It includes your home and other real estate, as well as your car or other vehicle that you own. It also includes bank accounts, investments, business interests and personal property such as jewelry, antiques or collectibles.

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Do I need an estate plan if I don’t have a lot of assets?

Yes. You may not think of yourself as wealthy, but if you die without an estate plan in place, everything you own will have to go through probate. That includes your car, your house, the money you have in the bank and any jewelry or other valuables you own. An estate plan gives you control over what happens to those assets. Without an estate plan, a court will decide.

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At what age should I start estate planning?

There is no specific age that people need to start thinking about an estate plan. It’s never too early to start preparing for the future. That’s why we recommend creating an estate plan as soon as possible. Your plan can be updated as circumstances in your life change. An estate plan can help people of any age feel secure knowing they’ve taken steps to protect their family if something happens.

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Do I need a will?

A last will and testament is often the first thing many people think of in relation to estate planning. Trusts can be set up to arrange for the transfer of many types of assets, however, including real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds. A last will and testament can be part of a larger estate plan that includes trusts. An experienced attorney can review your options with you.

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Is it better to have a trust or a will?

The purpose of trust and wills are generally the same – to transfer your assets to others. There are key differences, however. A will can include clear instructions for distributing your assets, but it needs to go through probate. A trust does not have to go through probate, allowing your family to avoid unnecessary costs and delays. A trust can give you more control over the distribution of your assets. An estate planning lawyer can go over all the advantages and disadvantages of both trusts and wills.

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Can I change my estate plan?

Yes. Many people update their estate plans as circumstances in their life change. Reasons for changing an estate plan can include the birth of a child or grandchild, a change in marital status, the death of a beneficiary or the purchase of a new home. That’s why it’s recommended that you review your estate plan regularly and work with an attorney on making any needed updates.

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Can I leave money to a charity?

Yes. Charities can be a beneficiary in your estate plan. You can arrange to have some of your assets distributed to one or several charitable organizations after you are gone. There may also be certain tax credits and exemptions for your estate. Another option is to set up a charitable trust. An attorney can help you choose the option that works best for you.

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