Making a Will in Hawaii

How to make a will in Hawaii and what can happen if you don't.

Updated by , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Hawaii

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Hawaii:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make a Hawaii Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Don't Have a Will?

In Hawaii, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Hawaii's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Hawaii?

No. You can make your own will in Hawaii, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Hawaii?

To make a will in Hawaii, you must be:

  • at least 18 years of age, and
  • of sound mind.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-501

A will in Hawaii can pass the property you owned at the time of your death, as well as property your estate obtains after you pass. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-602.

You must make your will on hard copy. It cannot be on an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?" below.) Hawaii does permit handwritten wills (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-502), but they are usually not a good idea.

How Do I Sign My Hawaii Will?

To finalize your will in Hawaii:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will.

Your witnesses must sign your will within a reasonable time after witnessing you sign it or acknowledge it as your will. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-502. Holographic wills do not have to be witnessed as long as the signature and material parts of it are in the will maker's handwriting. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-502.

Although Hawaii allows an "interested person" who stands to inherit under the will act as a witness, it is usually not a good idea. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-505.

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Hawaii, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Hawaii allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-504.

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

Yes. In Hawaii, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Hawaii, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating or destroying the will with the intent to revoke it, or
  • making a new will that states it revokes the earlier one or that has contradictory terms to the old one. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-507

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Hawaii law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. This rule does not apply if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree or contract relating to the division of your property) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 560:2-804. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

In a handful of states, you can make a legal will digitally—that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. Hawaii currently doesn't allow e-wills, but that may change in the future.

Where Can I Find Hawaii's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Hawaii's laws about making wills here: Hawaii Revised Statutes Title 30A Uniform Probate Code Chapter 560 Uniform Probate Code.

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