Trusts & Estates

We listen carefully to our clients so that we can craft a strategy specifically tailored to accomplish their goals. Our services include assisting clients with the administration of trusts and estates (including probate and non-probate assets). We offer a range of services.

Estate Planning

Sound estate planning helps to avoid estate and trust disputes. With years of experience in estate and trust disputes, we have learned from others’ mistakes. We have seen how well intentioned, but ineffective, estate plans can fall apart. We have seen situations where families do not get what their deceased family member wanted because the plan was not correctly implemented. We have seen situations where the laws of intestacy and other laws distribute someone’s hard earned nest egg to legal heirs that would not have received it if an estate plan been in place. We have also seen cases where a substantial portion of the estate goes to legal fees. We put our experience to work for our clients and help them to implement sound strategies that take care of their loved ones and keep them out of court.

Simple wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives are provided for a flat fee. We provide more complex estate planning, including trusts, on an hourly basis or for a flat fee, depending on the nature of the work.

It pays to have your estate plan reviewed from time to time. Laws change, and outdated estate planning can cost you or your heirs. This is especially true for estate plans that were put in place before 2013. Older estate plans, for example, may have given up the stepped up basis tax benefit in order to avoid triggering the estate tax. That may no longer be necessary. Your trust may need to be “decanted.” Call to see how we can help.

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Probate, Estate, and Trust Administration

Some small estates may be administered quickly, without probate, for a flat fee. Larger estates may require a carefully planned probate. We navigate complex probates to avoid disputes with creditors or heirs. We also litigate contested estates, trusts, and wills. Whether your matter is simple or complex, we are ready to put our skills to work for you.

Transparency goes 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 the 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.

Often, failing to share information on a regular basis, or failing to provide all the necessary information leads to distrust. That is when people hire lawyers. A trustee can also lessen or avoid liability by providing reports compliant with RCW 11.96A.070 and RCW 11.96A.110. Contact us to talk about your duties as trustee or personal representative, and learn ways that you may minimize your exposure to liability or litigation.

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Probate & Small Estate Affidavits

Probate is a legal process designed to pay creditors who submit valid claims, cut off other creditors’ claims, and transfer ownership to heirs and legatees. Probate does not have to be expensive or complicated. A small estate (under $100,000 with no real estate, and few assets) may qualify for a small estate affidavit, which may be processed without a probate for a small flat fee. Simple probates may also be processed for a flat legal fee. Every estate is different, though. Larger estates and estates with complexities will cost more, and will likely be processed on an hourly basis.

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Creditors’ Claims

We also represent creditors seeking to get their creditors’ claims paid. Deadlines for filing creditors’ claims vary, including 30 days, 4 months and two years. If a deadline is missed, the claim is barred, and will 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, call us to see how we can help.

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Trust & Estate Disputes

Sometimes litigation is needed to resolve trust disputes and estate disputes. Trustees may breach their fiduciary duties to beneficiaries, or personal representatives may use estate assets for their own personal benefit. Washington law provides a more efficient and less costly way to resolve trust and estate disputes: the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA”). TEDRA provides for an initial hearing that can sometimes resolve all matters without a costly and time consuming trial.

TEDRA provides for alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration. And when the parties agree, or the Court is asked to adjudicate the dispute, TEDRA gives extra flexibility in creating tailored remedies that work for a specific situation.

Even with TEDRA, some trust and estate disputes can be lengthy and costly. We hold trustees and personal representatives accountable for breaches of their fiduciary duties. Set up an appointment to have us review your particular situation and craft a legal strategy that protects you or gets you what you are entitled to.

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Elder Abuse & Inheritance Rights of Abusers

Unfortunately, some people try to take advantage of their elderly family members. If your loved one is taken advantage of, stolen from, or otherwise abused, they may be entitled to a vulnerable adult protection order. Washington has very strong laws against elder abuse, and imposes heavy consequences on the abusers, sometimes including forfeiture of all or part of their inheritance.

To make a will or trust, a person must be “of sound mind.” We have experience with cases of elder abuse, and inheritance rights of abusers. If your loved one was subject to undue influence, fraud, or lacked capacity to sign the documents he or she signed, or if you have been wrongfully accused, contact us.

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