Hawaii offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
Hawaii has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Hawaii if the value of property the deceased person owned in Hawaii is $100,000 or less. Motor vehicles may be transferred this way regardless of the value of the estate. Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 560:3-1201 and following.
Hawaii has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an inheritor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You may use the simplified small estate process in Hawaii if the value of all property the deceased person owned in Hawaii doesn't exceed $100,000. You can file the petition or the court clerk can file it. Then the court clerk acquires a court order, naming him or her as the personal representative. He or she collects and receives the property and distributes it. The clerk doesn't have to give notice to creditors and there doesn't have to be a hearing like in formal probate procedures. Then clerk publishes a notice at the court house and in a local newspaper that says creditors have 60 days to file claims against the estate. The clerk also tries to locate the inheritors. Haw. Rev. Stat. § § 560:3-1205 and following.
The clerk distributes the estate assets to the inheritors after 60 days if the estate's value is $10,000 or less or after four months if it is greater than $10,000. The assets are distributed in the following priority:
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).