Yuka Hongo specializes in Trusts and Estates Law in Honolulu, Hawaii. She frequently assists foreign investors with important legal issues related to investment or vacation property in Hawaii. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Yuka explains the circumstances that may require the assistance of a trusts and estates attorney in Hawaii. And how her practice can help.
You established Hongo Law Office, LLLC nearly 10 years ago. What is your practice focus?
My practice focuses on estate planning (e.g. preparing trusts and wills). Along with estate administration (e.g. probate and estate administration that does not require the court probate process.) As I am practicing in Hawaii at this time, most of my clients are Japanese. They usually live in Japan but own properties or other assets in the U.S. And require my help with respect to their estate planning/administration needs.
Tell us about your background in law and what led you to specialize in trusts and estates law in Hawaii.
I attended Oberlin College in the Midwest where I majored in Economics and East Asian Studies. I thought about going to business school but decided to go to law school instead. And I believed at the time would help me obtain the professional degree that I need to work internationally.
After attending Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California, I briefly worked in Tokyo, Japan. After that I decided to go to Hawaii to start my estate planning/administration practice. My family has an accounting firm in Japan. And I always get encouragement to work in an area related to taxes. Although I did not become a C.P.A., my father suggested that the estate planning/administration area is an area that is in high demand. With his suggestion, I started my practice along this line.
Why are trusts and estates services in Hawaii of importance to those outside the state and outside the United States?
Hawaii is obviously a vacation/touristy place where a lot of people from Mainland U.S.A. and/or foreign countries purchase timeshares or other types of property here in Hawaii. Such properties need to be under a trust in order to avoid probate, or would require probate in the event the owner does not prepare a trust or a Transfer on Deed for the property during the time that he/she is alive.
They might also open bank accounts, etc. in Hawaii that might need to go through probate if the account is held in single title (and not jointly) and the account has more than $100,000 in it. For people who do not reside on a regular basis in Hawaii, they forget to do the necessary estate planning before they die and face the consequences of probate, etc. once they pass away. I might be able to step in and help before this happens.
What is a typical event that would give clients a need for your services?
A typical event would be someone that dies and leaves a timeshare or condominium in Hawaii. If such an individual hadn’t prepared a trust, the property would have to go through the probate process in Hawaii. Or, if he/she had a single title bank account with more than $100,000 in it and he/she dies without having designated a beneficiary for it at the bank, the account would have to go through probate before it can be distributed to the heir(s).
Is it important to plan in advance for important life events by working with a trusts and estates lawyer before these events occur?
Yes, wills do go through probate but trusts will bypass probate. Also, a Transfer on Death Deed does not go through probate and can be prepared for real estate during one’s lifetime. Preparing a trust or a Transfer on Death Deed can definitely help.
Where can clients contact you?
Clients can contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. They can call my office at 808-204-4700 or 808-237-9944 (cell phone). Or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yuka-hongo-68ab58123/
Thanks to Yuka Hongo for sponsoring this post.