Probate & Trust Administration

We help personal representatives, estate administrators, and trustees navigate the process of meeting legal requirements and settling estates and trusts. We also help heirs and beneficiaries understand and assert their rights relating to the administration of trusts and estates. Some small estates and trusts may be administered quickly, without probate. Complex trusts and estates may require a carefully planned probate or trust administration. We also litigate contested estates, trusts, and wills. Whether your matter is simple or complex, we are ready to put our experience to work for you.

We navigate complex trusts and large estates to simplify the process for our clients and avoid disputes with creditors, beneficiaries, heirs, legatees, and devisees. Meeting legal requirements and providing transparency can go a long way toward avoiding trust and estate disputes.

A trustee is a fiduciary. The personal representative for an estate is also a fiduciary. This means they owe duties (including loyalty and care) to all the beneficiaries. Usually, one of those duties is the duty to share information about the trust or estate. Sometimes, failing to share information on a regular basis, or failing to provide necessary information can lead to distrust and legal disputes. A trustee can also lessen or avoid liability by providing reports compliant with RCW 11.96A.070 and RCW 11.96A.110.

Whether you are administering an estate or a trust, or you are a concerned beneficiary, please contact us to talk about the duties of a trustee or personal representative, and learn ways that you may protect your rights or minimize your exposure to liability or litigation.

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Probate is a legal process designed to impose a time limit and bar on creditor claims, obtain payment for valid creditor claims, and transfer ownership to heirs, devisees, and legatees. Probate does not have to be expensive or complicated. Our office has years of experience representing personal representatives, administrators, executors, heirs, beneficiaries and creditors.

We take the time to listen to our clients. We take the time to understand their goals. We think outside the box and formulate creative solutions. We put our years of experience to work to make the probate process easier for our clients, protect their rights, save money, and avoid disputes before they start.

Probate usually begins with the appointment of a personal representative (sometimes called an administrator or executor). Effectively, the personal representative steps into the decedent’s shoes, acts on behalf of the estate, and winds up their affairs. In most cases, probate is not as bad as you’ve heard. Washington State has one of the simplest probate processes in the country. Usually, the personal representative may act without court intervention or posting a bond. The process can sometimes be completed in a few months, and usually includes –

  • Filing the will and a petition with the court;
  • Gathering debt and asset information;
  • Sending a notice to the heirs, legatees, and devisees;
  • Providing notice to creditors;
  • Creating an inventory of the assets;
  • Tracking expenses and time;
  • Managing assets during estate administration;
  • Paying valid creditor claims submitted prior to the legal deadlines;
  • Paying taxes and filing tax returns;
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries; and
  • Closing the probate.

If a dispute is likely, or has already arisen, our team is happy to help you protect rights while minimizing expense. We also help clients through complex probates and probates involving will and testamentary trust interpretation, removal of personal representatives, family support awards, omitted spouse claims, real estate transfers, mediation, trust and estate resolution agreements, spousal rights, rights of partners in committed intimate relationships, community property issues, rights of joint owners and real estate co-tenants, creditor claims against the estate, title issues, and accountings. And we help clients quickly and economically resolve simple probates. Please contact our team and learn how a Bellingham probate lawyer can help you.

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Trust administration does not need to be confusing or stressful for a newly appointed trustee. Being a trustee comes with a lot of legal responsibilities, including adhering to the requirements in the trust and the law. We help trustees navigate the process in a way that meets the legal requirements and reduces stress and expense.

Trust beneficiaries have rights under the terms of the trust and according to Washington law. Trust beneficiaries may not be allowed to control the assets, but they may have beneficial ownership of trust assets, and are usually entitled to information regarding the assets and their administration, and to distributions from the trust.

Trust administration refers to the process of fulfilling the settlor’s intent as provided in the trust document and following applicable laws. Trust administration often includes –

  • Sending notice to the settlor’s heirs and trust beneficiaries;
  • Collecting the trust assets;
  • Paying debts and taxes;
  • Tracking trustee time and expenses;
  • Preparing accountings and other information about the trust for trust beneficiaries; and
  • Distributing trust assets to the beneficiaries.

Consult with an attorney to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities regarding trust assets. Our office has years of experience representing both trustees and beneficiaries. We guide clients through the processes of trust administration and probate, including complex and contested matters. Contact us to learn how we can help.

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Creditors’ Claims

We also represent creditors seeking to get their creditors’ claims paid. Deadlines for filing creditors’ claims vary, with deadlines including 30 days, 4 months and 2 years. Creditors’ claims need to contain certain information, including the facts and circumstances constituting the basis of the claim and the amount of the claim. If a deadline is missed, the claim can be barred and not be honored. We also represent creditors of heirs. A lien against an heirs’ inheritance can intercept the money before it disappears. If you have a creditor’s claim against an estate, or an heir, or if you are administering a trust or estate and a creditor’s claim has been made, contact us to learn how we can help.

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