WHAT'S THE LAW?
Cutting trees on city property is illegal
Question: My neighbor is cutting down all the huge African tulip trees on the slope between her house and mine. Right now the chain saw is working on a tree that is actually on city property. What is the law about tree-cutting?
Answer: The Department of Parks and Recreation provides guidelines for issues related to trees; the guidelines can be found at www.honolulu.gov/parks/treeinqguidelines.htm. The guidelines explain that "city street trees are the property of the City and County of Honolulu and destroying them is against the law." If a person witnesses somebody damaging or removing a tree belonging to the city, the Honolulu Police Department should be contacted.
Q: I live on the mainland but own two condos in Hawaii. I am thinking about establishing a trust for these properties, primarily to limit exposure to probate court at the time of my death. Do I need to do this in Hawaii, or can I do it in my state of domicile?
A: From Janet Kelly, Legal Aid attorney: I would suggest speaking to an attorney in your state of domicile regarding trust administration in that state. Generally, you set up a trust in your resident state. If you own any real property in that state, your attorney should be able to assist you in placing the property into the trust you create. You might want to include specific powers in the trust to handle your Hawaii properties. Once your trust is created, you will transfer assets into the trust, including your Hawaii properties. You likely will need an attorney in Hawaii to assist you with this process since a new deed will need to be drafted. If you have outstanding mortgages on these properties, you also will want to check with the mortgage company to see if they require consent to transfer the property into your trust. Some will and some will not; it depends on the loan. If you rent out your properties, you will also want to ask the mortgage company if there are any restrictions on the consent for rental properties. Some mortgage companies might not consent to the transfer of rental properties because it could impair their ability to sell off your loan in the future.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.