Trusts FAQ

Answers from an experienced estate planning lawyer

The process of estate planning can be very confusing. Trusts are a great option for most people, but they are complicated. There are different types of trusts and you may not be sure which one is right for your situation. Hongo Law Office, LLLC can answer any questions you have about trusts and help you create an estate plan that meets your needs.

Estate planning attorney Yuka Hongo helps clients in Japan and Hawaii make sense of estate planning. She has lived and worked in Japan and the United States. Clients rely on her experience, legal knowledge, bilingual skills and understanding of both cultures to guide them through the legal process.

Some of the most questions clients have about trusts include:

If you have other questions, contact us to schedule a consultation at our Honolulu office. Attorney Hongo also meets with clients in Japan, which she typically visits twice each year. She can review your financial situation, discuss your goals, explain your options and help you create an estate plan that prepares your family for the future.

What is a living trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement in which property is held for the benefit of another person. A living trust is one that is set up while you are still living. A testamentary trust would set up after you die per instructions you would leave in a will. There are different kinds of living trusts that can help family members avoid probate.

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Does a trust protect my assets from creditors?

No, not if it is a revocable trust that can be changed during your lifetime. All of the assets in your trust are still considered to be your property. If a creditor won a legal judgement against you, those assets would be at risk. Assets you put into an irrevocable trust are protected from creditors, as they would no longer legally be yours.

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If I have a trust, do I need a will?

You may. A trust only applies to the assets you transfer into it. A will can give instructions for the distribution of any assets that are not in the trust. These could include cars, checking accounts, an outstanding tax refund or any personal property you own, such as jewelry or antiques. The will would also need to go through probate.

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Does a trust override a will?

In some cases, yes. This only applies if there is a conflict between the trust and the will. For example, a man puts a house in a trust to leave to his son. Many years later, he writes a will and leaves his house to his granddaughter. If he never updated the trust, ownership of the house would transfer to the son. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

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What types of assets can I put in a trust?

You can transfer a wide range of assets into a trust. This includes any type of real estate, such as a home, building or land. It includes deposit accounts at banks and credit unions, as well as investment accounts, stocks and bonds. Life insurance policies and business interests can be put in a trust. Personal property, such as jewelry, antiques and collectibles, can also be put in a trust.

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Does a trust have to go through probate?

No. That is one of the main benefits of using a trust in estate planning. When you have a trust, the transfer of ownership is already established. After you die, the successor trustee you named to oversee the trust transfers ownership to the beneficiaries that you named. When all of the assets have been transferred, the trust will cease to exist.

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Can a trust be contested?

Yes. A lawsuit could be filed to try to prevent the transfer of ownership of assets in the trust, but there needs to be grounds for filing the suit. For example, the person filing the suit may claim that the terms of the trust violated state law, or that the grantor was not competent or under undue influence when creating the trust.

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Is a trust ever made public?

No. This is another key difference between a trust and a will. A will becomes a matter of public record when it goes through probate. Anyone can look at the record and see what happened to your assets. But a trust protects your privacy. Since assets in the trust do not need to go through probate, they do not become public.

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