As a member of ACTEC, I am privileged to learn from and exchange ideas with some of the most skilled and dedicated trust and estate lawyers in Hawai‘i. I often wonder why most of our discussions focus on probate and litigation issues rather than on how we can help plan to mitigate family conflict and avoid probate.

As professionals, we must continue to fight against the inclination to treat estate planning as “the preparation of documents.” Rather, we ought to consider ourselves more as  counselors of law” who guide their clients through a process that considers all factors — understanding  clients’ intentions and hopes, first and foremost — as well as convenience, probate avoidance, minimization of tax, family relationships, liability and fashioning a plan well-suited to their unique needs. This includes proper counseling and assistance in the funding of a trust, and engaging in meetings with family members and professionals to communicate intentions and the plan so that everyone — family, client and professional — are working together seamlessly with common goals.

Estate planning is not a commodity of different pieces of documents put into a three-ring binder. Estate planning mirrors life, where change is constant and communication is key.

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