We’re often asked to provide legal advice to a co-owner of Hawaii real estate. Often the client inherited the Hawaii real estate with other beneficiaries such as their siblings or cousins. From an estate planning standpoint, such a distribution of real estate made sense to the decedent as he/she wanted to gift the property to the people who had been helpful to the decedent.
Unfortunately sometimes the reality is the beneficiaries or spouses do not like each other and end up fighting about the Hawaii property. Many times those fights are even worse than disputes between third parties because family dynamics come into play.
What we have found is because emotions take over, rationale business decisions are ignored. Reasonable offers by third parties to purchase or rent the property are rejected because feelings were hurt years or decades ago. Lost in these Hawaii family disputes are the legal duties owed by each co-owner. In Hawaii, the Hawaii Court of Appeals and the Hawaii Supreme Court have both recognized that in Hawaii co-tenants stand in a fiduciary relationship to each other.
For example, the Hawaii Supreme Court has specifically held that the fiduciary relationship a co-tenant owes to others includes giving the co-tenant notice. Thus, a co-owner cannot run roughshod over another co-owner. Under Hawaii law a co-tenant actually owes a duty of utmost loyalty and good faith and candor to the other co-tenant, and a breach of fiduciary responsibility would make the co-owner liable to the other co-owner for any damage caused by such breach.
As you can see, Hawaii real estate disputes between family members should not be allowed to run its natural course as the law constrains and penalizes such behavior.
Contact us and, as your Hawaii attorneys, we can guide you through the family dispute and hopefully reach a settlement that all the parties can live with and avoid a Hawaii partition action.