How Probate Laws Work in Hawaii

When a loved one dies, several obligations must be met. Many of these obligations are related to their assets and debts. Even though you may be grieving a personal loss, these duties cannot be postponed or forgotten.

The legal process for handling an estate of a deceased person is known as probate. Every state has its own laws regarding probate and how it is to be completed. If you’re involved in an estate, you should understand the basics about the process.

Is Probate Required in Hawaii?

Yes, probate is required for estates in Hawaii in most cases. There are a few exceptions where an estate may not need to go through probate when someone dies.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Hawaii?

The best way to avoid probate in Hawaii for an entire estate is by setting up a revocable living trust before the person dies. The whole estate is placed into the trust with someone named as beneficiary when the person who is the trustee and former owner of the estate dies. Because the trust is a separate entity that continues to exist after the death of the trustee, it doesn’t need to go through probate.

If you don’t have a trust, it is still possible to have assets that don’t need to be included with probate. Some examples include life insurance policies with a named beneficiary or retirement accounts with someone named as a beneficiary. Checking accounts may have someone listed as payable on death, which would eliminate the need for probate.

Another instance when an asset doesn’t need to be probated is if it had multiple joint owners. For instance, two people may own a piece of real property jointly. When one dies, the surviving owner has total ownership.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Hawaii be Compensated?

Yes, an executor may be compensated for their work on an estate. They can receive compensation for the time they spend as well as for any expenses they pay for out of their own pockets.

How Much Does an Executor in Hawaii Get Paid?

Chapter 560 Section 3-719 deals with compensation for the personal representative in the Hawaii statutes. It doesn’t state an amount or percentage for how much the executor should receive. However, it requires that the compensation be “reasonable” based on the person’s services. If the will provides for compensation but the executor deems it to be inadequate, they may renounce that fee for other compensation as approved by the court.

How Long Does Probate in Hawaii Take?

The timeline for probate can vary a great deal. Several factors impact the time, such as size of estate, need to liquidate assets, and if there are claims against the estate. If anyone contests the will or other delays arise, probate can last well over a year, sometimes several years. For smaller estates, the process may be completed in three or four months, but the majority of situations will be at least six months.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Hawaii?

While most estates will need to go through probate in Hawaii unless they have been placed in a trust, not all of them will need to go through the long process. Hawaii allows for other options rather than going through formal probate in certain cases.

If an estate is valued at $100,000 or less, the person may use an affidavit to prove they are the rightful heir of the property without going through probate. This process works if there is a single beneficiary. For other instances, a simplified probate process may be used with small estates. In this situation, no notice must be given to creditors and there is no hearing. Creditors have 60 days to file a claim against the estate. If the value of the estate is les than $10,000, it may be distributed to heirs after two months. For amounts over that, the assets are distributed after four months.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Hawaii?

A will must be filed with the court when someone dies. It will be presented to the court in the county where the decedent lived before they died. This allows the court to validate the will if anyone contests it.

Settling an Estate in Hawaii

Settling an estate and managing the duties of executor is similar in Hawaii to any other states. However, Hawaii has its own laws that govern the details on how the process is to be completed. It’s a good idea to know what to expect if you become the executor or are involved as a beneficiary.

While the process of probate seems simple, it can become quite complicated, especially in larger estates. You can talk to a probate attorney if you have questions or issues.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Hawaii?

Hawaii statutes allow up to five year for probate to be filed after a person’s death. However, it is prudent to file as soon as possible to ensure all assets are maintained and all debts are paid.

Probate Court in Hawaii

Probate is handled by the circuit court in each county. You can find contact information for the courts at the Hawaii State Judiciary website: Judiciary | Circuit Courts (

Probate Code in Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the few states that has adopted the Uniform Probate Code, designed to provide uniform laws for probate from one state to another. This code is found in the Hawaii statutes in Title 30A under Chapter 560. You can read it at the Hawaii government website: TITLE 30A (