By Kauila Kopper, NHLC Litigation Director
You are not required to select a successor, but for most people, a successor is a very good idea. A successor is an eligible relative that you choose to take over your lease when you die. Designating a successor helps keep your lease in your ʻohana for future generations and ensures the kuleana for the lease passes from you to the person that you choose. Here are three tips to help you successfully designate your successor.
- Make sure the person you want to select as your successor meets DHHL’s eligibility requirements. Eligible relatives include a spouse, sibling, child or grandchild who is at least one-quarter Hawaiian by blood quantum. You may also select a parent, niece, nephew, or widow(er) of a sibling, niece, or nephew, if they are at least one-half Hawaiian by blood quantum. A spouse or child who is less than 25% Hawaiian by blood quantum can not take over and continue to hold the lease, but, you can choose to have them get the “proceeds,” or value of your home, minus any debt owed for the lease.
You can select more than one successor, but each person must meet the eligibility requirements. For some families, more than one successor is the right choice, although we recommend caution with more than one because there can be pilikia or confusion between successors about who has the kuleana to care for the property and make decisions regarding the lease and the home. These disputes can be difficult to resolve, especially while your relatives are grieving your loss. To avoid this, it may be better to designate a single successor.
- You must inform DHHL of your choice in writing. The best way to do this is by completing DHHL’s successorship form. Once completed, the form must be submitted to DHHL at one of DHHL’s offices. DHHL should then “acknowledge” the form and file it. You should make sure that DHHL completes those steps so that your successor request is properly in place. Once your successor form is properly on record, you can change it at any time as long as you repeat the process to complete and file your request in writing with DHHL. Each time you make a change, you should confirm that DHHL acknowledged and filed it.
- Talk to your family, especially those who live with you, about who you have chosen as your successor. When you die, your successor will need to be prepared. As soon as they can, they should contact DHHL about the lease transfer, and they should check on progress often. There can be strict deadlines to accept a lease transfer, so they must monitor for notices from DHHL, meet any deadlines that DHHL notifies them of, and follow up if there are delays or silence from DHHL. If DHHL refuses to transfer the lease, they should contact an attorney immediately to preserve their rights.
A homestead lease can provide stability to an ʻohana for generations. Taking these steps to designate a successor can help your homestead become a lasting legacy for your descendants.
E Nīnau iā NHLC provides general information about the law, not legal advice. You can contact NHLC about your legal needs by calling NHLC’s office at 808-521-2302. You can also learn more about NHLC at nativehawaiianlegalcorp.org.
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to the advancement and protection of Native Hawaiian identity and culture. Each month, NHLC attorneys will answer questions from readers about legal issues relating to Native Hawaiian rights and protections, including issues regarding housing, land, water, and traditional and cultural practice. You can submit questions at NinauNHLC@nhlchi.org.