A properly executed will gives you the ability to freely distribute your assets after death. In Hawaii, if you don't leave a will or if it fails to meet certain requirements, your property will pass according to a rigid set of rules outlined by state law. These rules are inflexible, and they prioritize heirs based on their legal relationship to you. Surviving spouses and children take first, followed by parents and siblings, then grandparents. If no surviving family members can be found, your estate becomes the property of the state.
Overview of Intestacy
If you die without a will in Hawaii, any property you own will pass according to the state's law of intestate succession. This involves a rigid set of rules that directs what portion of your estate is to be distributed to each of your living family members or their descendants. Intestate succession also applies when a will is declared invalid for failure to meet state guidelines for execution. For example, if only one person witnessed you sign a typed will, it will be declared invalid and your specific bequests will not be honored.
If you die without a valid will in Hawaii, distribution of your property depends on whether you were married. If you leave a surviving spouse, she will inherit all the estate, provided you left no children or parents, or your surviving children are also the children of your spouse. An exception to this rule exists if your surviving spouse has children from a prior relationship. In this case, your spouse receives the first $150,000 of your estate and half your property. The other half goes to your children and is divided equally among them. If you have no children but you left a surviving spouse and at least one parent, your spouse receives the first $200,000 of your estate and three-fourths of the remaining estate. Your parent or parents receive the balance.
If you die unmarried but you have children, the entire estate goes to your children and is divided equally among them. Special rules come into play if some of your children do not survive you, however. If they left surviving children of their own, your grandchildren equally share the portion of your estate that their parents would have received. The same rule applies if some of your grandchildren are deceased, but they left living great-grandchildren. In this case, each great-grandchild shares equally in the portion of the estate that would have passed to his or her parents.
If you die unmarried and without children, your entire estate passes to your parents. If you leave no surviving parents, your siblings share your estate equally. If some of your siblings have died but they left children, their children equally share the portion of your estate that would have passed to their parents. If you leave no brothers or sisters, one-half of your estate passes to your maternal grandparents or their descendants, and the other half passes to your paternal grandparents or their descendants. If no living relative can be found, your property passes to the state of Hawaii.