Estate planning involves protecting what is important and then passing it on to our loved ones and future generations. Many concepts central to Hawaiian culture are applicable to estate planning. Starting with the concept of ‘ohana (an inclusive notion of family), all the way through lokahi (unity — especially appropriate at the passing of a loved one), estate planning and the culture of our islands can interweave to form a rich tapestry of aloha.
Ha‘aha‘a describes an attitude of humility, which promotes family harmony at stressful times. Stress may arise in dealing with illness and death, and it may arise in dealing with the distribution of assets. It takes humility for 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 consensus regarding what is the right, or pono, thing to do, as well as respecting the wishes of the deceased and the living. It is not uncommon for different family members to have different views of what a deceased person’s wishes were in various contexts. This may result in disagreements that can be both heated and destructive.
Ho‘oponopono is an option at times of family disagreement. It is a delicate process that enables family members to express their views and come to understanding of alternative perspectives. Although ho‘oponopono may be employed after the fact in resolving disputes, it can also be used while the senior family member is still alive to head off disputes and instill unity in the family. A successful ho‘oponopono requires the sensitive leadership of a moderator who is not involved in the dispute and who can make sure that all perspectives are expressed and validated.
Finally, the concept of mālama, or caring for and perpetuating one’s legacy, infuses and motivates Hawaiian-style estate planning. This extends from caring for one’s family to caring for one’s community through charitable giving.
Remembering our root values helps us to leave a legacy of aloha.