Representing Small Business Owners in Business Disputes

Sometimes when you own your own business, things don't always go as planned. Even when you try to head off problems before they happen, sometimes they come up anyway. And even if you have contracts in place protecting your rights and defining the parties' responsibilities, sometimes your employees, customers, vendors, or independent contractors don't live up to their end of the deal. You might not want to, but now is the time to call your lawyer. We can help enforce your agreements and protect your business by reminding the other side of their obligations and, if necessary, by bringing a breach of contract lawsuit on your behalf to take your claim to a judge and jury.

As awful as that sounds, sometimes that's the nature of owning a small business, and we'll do our best to make the process as painless for you as we can. We have over 20 years' experience in representing small businesses and their owners in their business disputes. If you're a small business owner and need legal help, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype.

Settling a Probate Estate "in a Timely Manner"

Washington law requires that a Personal Representative settle the estate and distribute the decedent's assets "in a timely manner." (RCW 11.40.010) If you've been named Personal Representative, it is your duty to administer and wrap up the estate as timely as feasible, given the circumstances. This means you need to get the decedent's final bills paid, sell the house and other assets (if necessary), make specific gifts, and distribute the residue of the estate without unwarranted delay.

If you've been named Personal Representative of an estate and need legal help in performing your duties, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service.

Availability for Meetings in Boise, Idaho on September 22

Idaho Clients, Colleagues, Family, and Friends - Steve will be in Boise September 22-24 for Zoo Boise's annual fundraiser and is available to meet with clients or potential new clients on Friday the 22nd. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 if you're interested in setting up an appointment.

Lawyers Helping Hungry Children's 26th Annual Fundraising Luncheon - October 10, 2017 in Seattle

Lawyers Helping Hungry Children is having its 26th annual fundraising luncheon on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Seattle. LHHC is a group of lawyers and law firms that fights child hunger and malnutrition through fundraising, advocacy, and service. This year's speakers are the Honorable Bobbe Bridge (Ret.) of the Washington Supreme Court and Washington Solicitor General Noah Purcell. Funds raised go to support Northwest Harvest, Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County, City of Seattle Summer Food Service Program, and CARE.

If you're interested in attending the luncheon or joining Lawyers Helping Hungry Children, give us a call at 253.858.5434 and we'll help you get signed up.

Discounts on Estate Planning Legal Services for Preachers, Teachers, and First Responders

In case you forgot (or didn't know), we offer certain discounts to some of our estate planning clients. Since Wills for Heroes no longer has an active chapter in Washington, we knock 50% off the legal fees for cops and firefighters who want Wills, Powers of Attorney, etc. And in honor of my parents, we also give a 50% "Preachers & Teachers" discount to those of our clients who are ministers, priests, rabbis, etc. and teachers who want to put estate plans in place. If you know anybody who fits into one of those categories, have them give us a call at 253.858.5434 and we'll make sure they and their families get taken care of.

Using Trusts as Part of Your Estate Plan

We like Trusts. Trusts are cool. Trusts can be a major part of your estate plan. Living Trusts can make things a lot easier for your family and charitable beneficiaries when you die - they're cheaper, faster, more flexible, and more private than probate. Testamentary Trusts (Trusts you make in your Will) are a much more flexible, efficient, and economic way to manage and disburse money to your kids or grandkids than guardianships.

If you have questions about using Trusts as part of your estate plan, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Representing Injured People in Claims Arising from Auto Collisions

When you've been injured in an auto collision, you have enough to deal with besides dealing with insurance companies. Hiring a lawyer to represent you in your personal injury claim gives you the time and ability to concentrate on your main job - getting better. Go to your doctor appointments, fill your prescriptions, do your physical therapy, and get your chiropractic and massage treatments. Leave it to your lawyer to present the facts of the collision, the details of your injuries and how they've affected your life and your family, and the calculations of your lost earnings to the insurance company. Your lawyer knows best how to negotiate a fair and just settlement, and if the insurance company won't settle, your lawyer will take your case to a judge and jury for you.

We have over 20 years' experience representing injured people and their survivors. We have made the commitment to handle many cases - especially personal injury cases - on the basis of "no recovery - no fee" because we believe that people who've been injured and are possibly unable to work or afford attorney fees deserve to be fairly compensated for their losses and are entitled to equal access to the judicial system. If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker have been injured in an auto collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Representing Small Businesses, Nonprofit Organizations, and Churches Throughout Washington & Idaho

We represent numerous small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and churches throughout Washington and Idaho. We assist these clients with their corporate formation and governance, preparing and reviewing leases and contracts, developing policies, and any related litigation. If you're a small business owner and have need for legal services, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service.

Have you been named as Personal Representative of an estate? Here's a checklist of tasks you'll need to get done.

When you've been named Personal Representative of someone's estate (formerly called the "Executor" or "Administrator"), you'll have a few jobs to get done. Although your lawyer will do the legal work and deal with the Court for you, you'll have a checklist of tasks that you'll need to do with the lawyer's help, including:

1. Establish files for documents.
2. Establish method for record keeping.
3. Select an accountant.
4. Open new bank accounts for estate.
5. Notify known creditors of death.
6. Examine business records and correspondence to identify all assets and creditors.
7. Inventory assets.
8. Appraise assets.
9. Sell unwanted assets.
10. File individual tax return for the year of the decedent's death.
11. File tax return for estate.
12. Close old bank accounts.
13. Close/transfer brokerage accounts.
14. Notify Social Security Administration.
15. Close charge/credit card accounts held by the decedent.
16. Keep records of time spent on estate administration and any expenses.

If you have questions about serving as Personal Representative of an estate, give us call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Preparing Trusts to Protect Your Children's Assets

Most parents plan on having their children inherit their estates. However, when doing estate planning to take care of your children, you want to make sure you do it correctly. Getting your Will or Trust done right ensures that you can choose how you want to assign the property to your children, and also protects their assets from creditors. By using an appropriate strategy and preparing a Trust for your children, you can ensure that your plan offers asset protection for your children in case they face (1) creditors, (2) predators, (3) a divorcing spouse, (4) lawsuits, or (5) bankruptcy.

To give your children solid asset protection, you need to make sure you put the right language in your Trust and name a Trustee you can count on. By making sure you complete these two steps, you can make sure your children’s assets are protected for whatever period of time you pick, even through your children’s lifetime.

Trusts can be written to ensure that unused parts of your child’s inheritance can be given to future grandchildren with the same protection you gave to your child. Or, if that child has no children of their own, you can decide to allow the inheritance to go to your child’s other siblings or to some other person or charity. By drafting your trust this way, you allow your child to keep the assets you pass down to them apart from a spouse. This means that once you die, your assets go right to your children’s separate trusts, and protects the money from a possible divorcing spouse or creditor issues that could arise.

You should pick a Trustee you can trust, allowing that person to control investment and distributions from the Trust to care for the child until the child reaches a more mature age. Using an independent trustee in case any creditor issues arise for your child can help protect your child’s assets.

We've been advising clients on how to prepare Trusts to protect their children's assets for over 20 years. If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

If you have been injured in an auto collision, it's a good idea to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.

If you have been injured in an auto collision, it's a good idea to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. We can help you submit your claim to the at-fault driver's insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement for your personal losses. If we can't settle with the insurance company, we'll bring a lawsuit on your behalf and take your claim to a jury. We have over 20 years' experience representing injured people and their survivors. We have made the commitment to handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee, or "no recovery, no fee" basis.

If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.

Small business owners can now file suit in federal court for theft of their trade secrets under the new U.S. Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

In 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (the “DTSA”). The DTSA expands the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to include a private cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. Before the DTSA, trade secrets and their subsequent legal ramifications have traditionally been left to the states. Most states have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (including Washington and Idaho). The DTSA is similar to the Uniform Act, but contains new provisions that have immediate implications for any business with trade secrets.

The heart of the DTSA is the addition of a private cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. Owners of trade secrets can now file suit in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets related to products or services that are used (or intended to be used) in interstate or foreign commerce. Actions under this section must be brought in federal court, and a 3-year statute of limitations applies.

The DTSA offers remedies that are very similar to the Uniform Act. It allows plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief (i.e., court orders forcing a defendant to do or not do certain things) or money damages (such as actual losses or reasonable royalties). The DTSA also allows for punitive damages up to two times actual damages, and in certain cases prevailing parties can recover attorney fees.

One new remedy not available under the Uniform Act is civil seizure. In extraordinary circumstances, a federal court may order the seizure of property to prevent propagation or dissemination of a trade secret. However, this powerful new remedy is only available in certain narrowly defined circumstances.

In another departure from the Uniform Act, the DTSA contains exceptions from liability for disclosures made to government officials for the purpose of investigating violations of law. Essentially, this exception allows controlled disclosure of trade secrets for whistleblowers, either for reporting violations or defending against retaliation.

The DTSA requires employers to provide notice of this whistleblower exception in employment contracts and contractor agreements created or modified after the law goes into effect that govern the use of trade secrets or confidential information. Failure to provide notice can prevent the employer from recovering punitive damages or attorney fees, depriving them of what is often their biggest weapon. Employers should review their agreements immediately to assess what changes may be needed.

To the extent that the DTSA is similar to the Uniform Act, the DTSA is not a huge change for business with trade secrets. Nevertheless, the ability to sue in federal court will likely provide welcome options for some businesses. All businesses should review their employment contracts and contractor agreements to implement the new notice requirements.

We are always happy to help businesses protect their trade secrets and intellectual property. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to call us at 253.858.5434. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Probate and Testamentary Trusts

When you die, many of your assets will have to go through probate before they can be distributed to your beneficiaries. Probate is the process whereby a representative for your estate gathers your assets, pays your creditors, and distributes your remaining property under the terms of your Will. Whether your Will gives these assets directly to your beneficiaries or places them in a trust, your assets must go through probate.

A testamentary trust is a trust created in a Will, unlike living trusts that are created while you are alive. Living trusts can be revocable, meaning you can cancel the trust and take your property back, or irrevocable, but both allow you to put property into the trust while you are alive. This is often called “funding” the trust. Testamentary trusts, however, are not created until your death, so it is not possible for you to transfer your assets into a testamentary trust during your lifetime. All of the assets used to fund your testamentary trust are placed into that trust after your death.

Since your testamentary trust is created and funded by the language of your Will, a probate court must make a determination that your Will is valid before the trust can be created. Generally, courts do this at the beginning of the probate process. The court next appoints a Personal Representative to manage your estate, typically the person you named to perform that duty in your Will. Since your Will creates the trust, your PR has the responsibility of establishing the trust according to the terms of your Will. Your PR is responsible for distributing your assets once they pay your creditors, but they cannot distribute assets to a trust until they create that trust during probate.

Since trusts are formal legal structures, they cannot be started without legal paperwork. Even though the trust is developed by your Will, the trust causes additional paperwork, responsibility and expense for your PR and estate. The person in charge of your trust (the Trustee) can be your PR or someone else. Depending on state law, the Trustee may be required to make periodic reports to the court regarding the status of the trust for as long as the trust exists.

If you have a question about using testamentary trusts as part of your estate plan, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When should you review your estate plan?

Many people review their estate plans at a regular frequency, often when they review their whole financial plan. This can be done annually, semi-annually, or quarterly; for estate planning specifically, we general recommend you review your estate plan every three or four years or when there is a major life event.

In addition to regular reviews, it’s a good idea to review and update your plan at major life events like:
* The birth or adoption of a new child or grandchild
* When a child or grandchild becomes an adult
* When a child or grandchild needs educational funding
* Death or change in circumstances of the guardian named in your Will for minor children
* Changes in your number of dependents, such as the addition of caring for an adult
* Change in your or your spouse's financial or other goals
* Marriage or divorce
* Illness or disability of your spouse
* Change in your life or long-term care insurance coverage
* Purchasing a home or other large asset
* Borrowing a large amount of money or taking on liability for any other reason
* Large increases or decreases in the value of assets, such as investments
* If you or your spouse receives a large inheritance or gift
* Changes in federal or state laws covering taxes and investments
* If any family member passes away, becomes ill, or becomes disabled
* Death or change in circumstance of your Personal Representative or Trustee
* Career changes, such as a new job, promotion, or if you start or close a business

Reviewing your plan at regular intervals in addition to major life events will help ensure that your legacy, both financial and otherwise, is passed on in accordance with your wishes and that your beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible. If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline

According to the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, 23.6% of women and 11.5% of men reported at least one lifetime episode of intimate-partner violence. Research has shown that one of the key components in reducing domestic violence is ensuring that victims have access to civil legal services. The ABA provides training for lawyers providing pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence, provides resources to legal aid clinics, and lobbies Congress and state legislatures for anti-domestic violence laws, like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If you need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).