Seattle, WA asked in Estate Planning for Hawaii

Q: My sister who resides in Hawaii just passed. Can one sibling take all her belongs for themselves without us knowing?

Our family consists of 5 siblings spread across the United States. Our sister passed away in Hawaii without a will, and without knowing it, one brother asked a cousin to go pack up her things, without first consulting with us.

We do not know where her belongs (including cars, bank accounts, etc) are going, and he is not being forthcoming with any information. Since he would be one of the remaining 4 to inherit part of her estate, is it legal for him to have someone take everything without us knowing about it?

The sister who passed lived in Aiea, Hawaii. She was unmarried with no children.

2 surviving brothers (including me) are in Seattle, Washington, another surviving brother in Ithaca New York, and a surviving sister in Albuquerque, NM.

Thank you

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kelly LaPrade
Kelly LaPrade
  • Wailuku, HI
  • Licensed in Hawaii

A: If your sister died without a will then her probate assets would be inherited according to the laws of intestacy. It may be appropriate to safeguard property by taking possession, versus ownership, of the property. Having said that, the lack of transparency is a problem. For instance, it may be ok for a family member to take inventory of the assets and safeguard them until such time that the appropriate arrangements can be made for the distribution of the property.

However, someone coming in and absconding with the property and keeping if for themselves is not appropriate.

You might be surprised to find out that if your sister had no spouse and no children but she had living parents one or both would actually be next in line to inherit according to the laws of intestacy in Hawaii. If there were no living parents, then the siblings are the next in line to inherit. In order to take ownership of property there would need to be either a probate or in the case where the assets are not more than $100k, then an Affidavit of Collection could be used to take ownership of your sister's probate assets. I would act fast because if there is a person using an Affidavit of Collection to obtain assets, the original custodian of the assets is allowed to rely on the Affidavit and it will be difficult to hold them responsible for giving the assets to the inappropriate party.

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