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Don’t wait until it’s too late, head of law firm speaks from experience

Don’t wait until it’s too late, head of law firm speaks from experience

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Putting together a will or living trust and simply getting your finances in order before something unexpected happens is something that many people put off until it’s too late.

Michelle Ogata is a graduate of Pearl City high school and the University of Hawaii. Now she heads up Estate Planning Partners, a law firm focused on learning about client’s family, assets, and goals, then developing a succession plan for when a family member passes on.

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“So that at the end of the day the families that left with a big mess after they’re gone. And another big goal is that their assets end up with the right folks,” said Ogata.

Without a legal trust, Ogata said families can find themselves not only wasting a whole lot of time and energy but ultimately a lot of money.

Ogata said, “attorney fees can add up. It takes time, and the courts are really busy so by doing the planning documents to save the family from ending up in these court proceedings.”

And sadly, it happens all too often — families fight over money or assets when a family member dies, making an already difficult situation that much worse.

“Especially in the state of Hawaii because housing is so valuable the home is often a common thing for fighting. With these documents, we try to minimize or avoid that flight if possible”

Michelle Ogata, Estate Planning Partners

“We’ve seen a lot of families go through heartache and fighting and spend a lot of their inheritance on attorney fees because documents were not in place they weren’t filed properly or they were updated,” Ogata explained.

Ogata said the decision to move into trust law is the direct result of what she witnessed firsthand as a young girl when she lost her father.

Ogata explained that in her family, her father, “handled the finances and my mom raised the kids. His passing was very sudden and when he passed away my mom was left with his mess. She had to go through probate proceedings and bank accounts were frozen.”

“I was 12 at the time so I had no idea what they were talking about,” said Ogata. “But what I did get from those meetings with her attorney was that it gave her peace of mind knowing that if something happened to her a plan was in place so that my sister and I would be taken care of and we wouldn’t be left with a mess after she was gone”

Today, her firm is not only building its client base but recently completed building out an entirely new location.

And like those she served, she said COVID forced the company to change while still remaining true to the firm’s core mission of being prepared for the unknown.

“I think estate planning has this sort of stigma that it’s there for older folks, but with COVID, as you know –young, old — it could affect anyone, so what it did was it made a lot of folks move forward with getting it done,” said Ogata.

Ogata added that, “we had a lot of clients in the healthcare industry and they’re working with patients with COVID on a daily basis and so even more so it was something that they wanted to get done, and they wanted to get this done soon.”

Those clients are the fuel to her company’s success.

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“A lot of our business comes from referrals clients referring their colleagues, their families, their friends. So we put our clients first and their needs first but in turn that just leads to a more successful business for us,” said Ogata.