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Building diversity | Your estate matters


The building blocks
of diversity

Not just a buzzword, different
perspectives are good business

By Niti Dubey-Villinger

Diversity or the management of diversity has been an important "buzzword" in organizations since the 1980s. Organizations that promote diversity are interested in several important objectives.

First, they wish to recruit, develop and promote people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. A person from a different race, ethnic background, religion or culture is considered for employment to bring a new perspective to the organization.

Secondly, diversity makes analysis of organizational objectives and decisions richer. When people come together to discuss a plan of action or to discuss a problem, diversity in the composition of a team makes analysis more meaningful.

Finally, diversity "revitalizes" the organization. New perspectives, approaches and experiences add to the diversity of an organization. Without diversity, organizations might cease to be dynamic.

We are a country that values diversity. It is supported by our Constitution. Our society is a society of immigrants. Each decade brings new immigrants to the country. We learn from each other even through initial language barriers. There is an open window of equal opportunity in America. Diversity is encouraged and supported by this.

There are several ways to promote diversity in organizations.

These include: (1) hiring and supporting individuals of different races and ethnicities; (2) using cross-cultural and cross-functional teams within the organization; (3) encouraging staff to get to know other people in the organization through informal as well as formal events; (4) encouraging staff to work in different parts of the organization, even in different locations; (5) having employees take training courses that explore another culture or country; and (6) working with and coaching colleagues with different backgrounds.

Some organizations, through their human resources departments, have aspired to promote diversity in their organizations. They have followed the preceding practices and have been successful in promoting diversity. Promoting diversity can be realized very easily if these recommendations are implemented. It is important for leadership to set an example.

Sometimes there are challenges to diversity. An investment in time and attention is usually needed. Employees need to learn to be open-minded, tolerate differences and get to know colleagues of different backgrounds. Each individual is unique. As employees we should learn from each other and help foster diversity.

Niti Dubey-Villinger is an assistant professor of management at Hawaii Pacific University. She can be contacted at



Estate planning
-- if you will -- is
really life planning

By Judith Sterling and Michelle Tucker

What is the first thing that leaps to most people's minds when they think about estate planning? A will. We've all seen the dramatic scenes in films of yesteryear -- the reading of the will. But the truth of the matter is the will is no longer the focal point of estate planning.

In Hawaii, a well-rounded estate plan includes four documents: a revocable living trust, a general durable power of attorney, an advance health care directive, and a will.

Probably the least important of these is the will. A will is only effective at death, the other three documents have an impact during your lifetime.

In order to be effective, a will must be admitted to probate. Probate is a process to clear title of property from the person who died to the people designated in the will.

As with most legal processes, probate can be costly, time-consuming and public. Assets that go through a formal probate process are a matter of public record, open to the prying eyes of nosey neighbors and relatives, as well as con artists and other nefarious individuals.

Assets in a trust do not have to go through the probate process.

In theory, when you place your assets in a trust, the legal title is no longer vested in you as an individual, but in the trustee of the trust. As a result, when you die, no probate process is necessary to clear title to the property.

Thus, the trust bypasses the will and the probate process entirely.

A "revocable living trust" is a trust created while you are living that you can revoke or amend at any time. A well-drafted trust can be extremely flexible and can facilitate management of your assets while you are well, during a period of incapacity and long after your death.

While you are alive and well, you would be the trustee and manage the assets in your trust. Upon your incapacity or death, someone designated by you would take over as trustee and would manage the trust, making investment and distribution decisions in accordance with the instructions you set forth in the trust, providing continuity in asset management.

In a general durable power of attorney, you appoint someone to make decisions for property not controlled by the trust.

For example, your "agent" could file income tax returns for you, change beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement plans, etc. The agent can also transfer any forgotten property into the trust. Again, this provides for a smoother transition during periods of incapacity. A carefully drafted general durable power of attorney can contain language appropriate to your situation to allow for long term care planning.

In an advance health care directive, you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you can no longer do so for yourself. You may also express any wishes you have regarding life-prolonging measures.

Finally, the will disposes of any property that remains titled in your name rather than the trust.

The typical will simply is a "pourover" into the trust. This means that, if any property passes pursuant to the will, it simply becomes part of the trust.

The most important role of the will is the appointment of guardians for minor children.

Estate planning really is life planning. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you plan for management of your assets during your life, during periods of disability, as well as after you are gone.

Judith Sterling and Michelle Tucker are partners in the Honolulu law firm of Sterling & Tucker. Reach them at 531-5391 or visit or

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