Must Owner of Property in Guam and Hawaii have Separate Estate Planning Documents?

 In Property in Other Countries, Wills
Guam estate planning

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We are in our 70’s and live in Honolulu. We moved here from the US Territory of Guam. We still have assets in Guam. Do we need separate estate planning documents for Hawaii and for Guam?


That’s an interesting question. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution requires each state to honor the laws of other states. As a result, your Hawaii estate planning documents cover your property in any state. But Guam is not a state, which raises the question as to whether it’s treated differently.

In 1991, the Government Accountability Office provided Congress with a report on the applicability of various sections of the Constitutions to “U.S. Insular Areas” including Guam. Unfortunately, it did not include the Full Faith and Credit Clause in its consideration. Federal law regarding Guam also does not appear to address this question.

Fortunately, Attorney Michael J. Berman of the Berman Law Firm in Guam was able to confirm that non-Guam estate documents will be honored in Guam. However, he pointed out that Guam is a community property jurisdiction and Hawaii is not, which raises a whole other set of concerns. My recommendation would be to contact an estate planning attorney with expertise in both Hawaiian and Guam law who would know both the law and practice (which sometimes supersedes the black letter law). (Attorney Berman’s firm has an office in Honolulu.)

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