Estate planning is the process of protecting that which is important and then passing those important things on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts that are central to Hawaiian culture are particularly applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana (a very inclusive notion of family), all the way through lokahi (a sense of unity — especially appropriate at the passing of a loved one), estate planning and the culture of our islands interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.
The term ha‘aha‘a describes an attitude of humility, which promotes family harmony during stressful times. Stress may arise in dealing with with illness and death, and the distribution of the assets of the deceased. Humility allows family members to form closer bonds at these times.
Sometimes, dealing with issues surrounding the disposition of a loved one’s remains, much less the disposition of assets, requires family members to talk out differences and come to a consensus regarding what is right, or pono, as well as respect the wishes of the deceased and the living. It is common for different family members to have different views regarding the wishes of the deceased person, which may result in disagreements that can be both heated and destructive.
However, all of the disputing parties may be right on some level. The deceased may have had many conversations with different members of the ‘ohana over the years. One family member might remember instructions given on one date that conflict with those given to another family member on another date. But a consensus may be reached if both family members can come together through the process of ho‘oponono, or making things right through talking out differences.
Ho‘oponopono is a delicate process, and a successful conclusion may depend on the leadership of an experienced individual who can help family members clearly express their views and then validate those views so that all involved can both understand and respect the feelings and positions being communicated. Ho‘oponopono may be used while the senior family member is still alive to head off disputes and instill unity in the family.
Mālama, or caring for and perpetuating one’s legacy, infuses and motivates Hawaiian-style estate planning. It extends from caring for family to caring for community through charitable giving. Remembering our root values helps to ensure that we are leaving a legacy of aloha.