Tips for Avoiding Family Fights During Administration of a Loved One's Estate

When you've been named Personal Representative of a loved one's estate, you can’t control family fights over inheritance, or insulate yourself from potential blowback from unhappy family members. What you can do is communicate early and often. Here are some tips:

TELL EVERYONE THE RULES. Let family members know that there are going to be some decisions that require collaboration. They will have the opportunity to provide input at that time. But there are also going to be decisions that you as Personal Representative will have to make on your own, and you’ll keep them informed of those, too.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you know from the outset that family dynamics could complicate probate, consider bringing in an objective third party to help mediate. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer, just someone who can remain neutral and help resolve family fights over inheritance with patience and detachment.

DON'T ALLOW THE PROCESS TO CONSUME YOU. Probably the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself through this difficult and emotional process. Set parameters around the time that you'll focus on probate issues, and then respect those boundaries so you can also keep up with the rest of your life.

At the end of the day, stuff is just stuff. Remember, the most valuable part of any inheritance is the family bond that a beloved parent leaves behind.

If you're experiencing family disputes over an estate or if you have questions about the probate process in general, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Estate Planning in Second Marriages vs. First Marriages - There's a Difference!

In first marriages, the couple generally has the same goals when it comes to their estate planning: take care of the surviving spouse for as long as he or she lives, then whatever is left will go to the children. They may own many of their assets jointly and, at the death of the first spouse, more than likely everything will go to the surviving spouse just as they had planned.

But second marriages (after divorce or death of the first spouse) are different. There may be your children, my children, and sometimes our children. Each of you probably has assets that you brought into this marriage, and you want those to go to your own children after you die. At the same time, you probably want to make sure your surviving spouse will have enough to live on should you die first.

More than likely, the estate planning methods you relied upon in your first marriage will not work now. For example, let’s say you add your new spouse’s name on the title of your home and you own it as joint tenants with right of survivorship. If you die first, your share immediately transfers to your spouse, who now has complete ownership of your home. They can do whatever they want with it now, regardless of what your Will or Trust says. They can leave it to their own children and completely disinherit yours.

There are similar problems with beneficiary designations. Many people name their spouse as beneficiary of their life insurance, IRAs and other tax-deferred plans to provide for their spouse should they die first. But this can be a problem with second marriages because your spouse-beneficiary can name anyone he/she wants as new beneficiaries to inherit the proceeds, bypassing your children. Promises may be made now to include them, but promises can be broken after you are gone.

Other Considerations:

* If each of you has considerable assets, you may want to keep your assets and your estate planning separate. If there will be a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, be sure to have it reviewed by your estate planning lawyer (before signing).
* If your spouse has considerably fewer assets than you do, you can provide for him/her until death or remarriage, then have the remaining assets distributed to your children. This is often accomplished through a life estate or what is referred to as a QTIP trust.
* If your new spouse is much younger than you are, your children may be concerned that he/she is only after your money. These feelings may subside as the marriage lengthens. But if your spouse is closer in age to your children than to you, they may be wondering if they will ever receive their inheritance from you. Consider giving them some of their inheritance upon your death (e.g., though life insurance), then the rest at your spouse’s death or remarriage.
* If your new spouse is much younger than you are, your children may be concerned that he/she is only after your money. These feelings may subside as the marriage lengthens. But if your spouse is closer in age to your children than to you, they may be wondering if they will ever receive their inheritance from you. Consider giving them some of their inheritance upon your death (e.g., though life insurance), then the rest at your spouse’s death or remarriage.
* Naming a Trust as beneficiary for your life insurance policies and tax-deferred plans is often a good choice for second marriages. This will allow you to keep control over how and to whom the proceeds are distributed. You can provide your spouse with lifetime income, yet keep control over the rest of the proceeds. Keeping the proceeds in a Trust will also protect them from irresponsible spending, creditors, predators, divorce, remarriage and even estate taxes, if done properly.
* Be sure to include planning for disability and long-term care. If one spouse becomes ill and Medicaid assistance is needed, the combined assets of the couple will be considered “available assets” to pay for the care of the ill spouse. Long-term care insurance may be needed to protect the assets of one or both spouses.
* Discuss your individual estate planning goals together. If they are similar, then your task may be somewhat easy. But if they are considerably different, consider having separate lawyers.

You want to do the right thing for everyone involved: yourself, your spouse, your children, your spouse’s children. Take the time to consider this from everyone’s point of view. An experienced estate planning lawyer will be able to advise you and work with both of you to create a plan that will do exactly what you want it to do.

If you have estate planning questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. If you've been hurt in an auto collision that wasn't your fault, give us a call today. We'll investigate the facts of the case, gather and analyze your medical records and wage loss records, deal with the insurance company for you, advise you on what we think is a fair value for your damages to get your compensated, and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If we can't come to an agreement with the insurance company, we'll bring a lawsuit and litigate your claim in front of a judge and jury.

If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in a car crash, we can help. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment.

Representing family-owned businesses means providing legal advice that furthers company objectives while also accomodating family estate planning goals.

We represent numerous family-owned businesses. We recognize the need to provide legal advice that furthers the strategic objectives of the company while simultaneously accommodating the personnel, familial, and estate planning goals of the company's owners. Our toolkit includes the tools of the business organizational advisor (deep familiarity with the alternative legal frameworks for organizing an enterprise, including corporations and limited liability companies) and of the estate planner (knowledge of the means by which ownership and management succession can be effected, which includes trust law and may include mergers and acquisitions, and the tax consequences of each succession alternative).

The key challenge in representing a family business law is to structure an environment in which family goals and interests and the company's goals are mutually reinforcing. This requires empathy and creativity, particularly the ability to translate essentially non-legal concepts such as stewardship into legal script, all in a tax-efficient manner.

If you are part of a family-owned business and need legal representation, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Probate, Trust, and Estate Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

When we meet with estate planning clients, you'd be amazed how many times we hear something like, "Oh, no, my children get along so well. They won't fight when I'm gone, they'll all be on the same page and will all agree on everything." We just smile and nod and say, "Well, I hope you're right, that would fantastic. But just in case, let's do this..."

Death and money, y'know? It's a stressful and emotional time. Family relationships can get strained after the death of a loved one and family tensions can reach a boiling point during the estate distribution. All of this can lead to probate litigation and the need for dispute resolution. We understand that in certain cases, litigation is the only method of resolution and we will not hesitate to advocate strongly on our clients' behalves in court.

For many reasons, probate, trust, and estate litigation can be complex. We will prepare you by advising you on pre-litigation strategies, analyzing potential risk, as well as reviewing documents. We then apply creative problem solving to secure a favorable resolution for you.

Probate, trust, and estate litigation can include disputes regarding contested Wills, improper disbursement of estates, issues regarding the personal representative or trustee, Trust litigation, and claims against fiduciaries.

However, we are also strong proponents of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and legal solutions that include mediation. Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to amicably and respectfully resolve their estate disputes. The Washington Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) allows for resolution of disputes regarding trusts and estates through out-of-court processes such as mediation, arbitration, and agreement. We have significant experience representing heirs and beneficiaries as well as defending estates in TEDRA actions. Call us at 253.858.5434 today to see how we can help you.

Each person and each family's estate planning needs are individualized, unique, and equally important - regardless of the size of the estate.

Since 1996, we have assisted hundreds of clients to develop estate plans specific to their goals. We understand that each person’s and each family's needs are individualized, unique, and equally as important – regardless of estate size.

That's why we take the time to truly understand each of our client’s goals and wishes. We understand this may be emotionally difficult, overwhelming, and scary. The good news is that meeting with a lawyer is the first step in achieving peace of mind for you and your family. You may be surprised that the process is not so scary after all.

Planning your estate is much more than just protecting assets. We work with you to create a comprehensive plan to distribute your estate upon your death, as well as documents that set forth your wishes in the event that you are incapacitated. Whether drafting health care directives, simple Wills, or complex Trust documents, we pledge to work with you closely to craft a suitable plan.

Every estate – whether large, small, simple, or highly complex – needs a plan. Establishing a solid plan before bad things happen may substantially reduce the financial and legal burdens your loved ones face at a time when you are not there to help.

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 represent and provide legal advice to clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When you get hurt in a car crash that wasn't your fault, hire a lawyer sooner rather than later.

When you get hurt in an auto collision that wasn't your fault, hire a lawyer sooner rather than later. We can help guide you through the insurance claims process. We'll gather evidence and analyze your claim for damages, e.g., medical bills, wage loss, out-of-pocket expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc. We'll negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and get you a settlement that is fair and just.

If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker needs a personal injury lawyer, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment.

Estate planning is way too complex for fill-in-the-blank cooker cutter online forms. Your family deserves more attention, advice, and guidance than that.

Just saw the following banner ad on some random website: "$39 WILL & GUARDIANSHIP. Why pay a lawyer thousands? Take 5 minutes to answer these questions and recieve your Will & Guardianship."

First of all, "recieve"? Secondly, "thousands"? Apparently we've been undercharging for our services. Thirdly, our clients' personal and financial lives are too complex to be fully addressed with fill-in-the-blank online forms. Estate planning isn't just about filling out forms. It's about advice and guidance. It's about knowledge and experience. It's about an educated understanding of your state's statutes and judicial decisions that make up the law of Wills, Trusts, and Guardianships. There's no cookie cutter, "one-size-fits-all" estate plan that fits every family and their unique circumstances.

We have been representing and advising estate planning clients since 1996. If we can be of service to you, your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment.

Helping Our Small Business Clients Collect Delinquent Accounts and Contracts

Running your own business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. You had a concept, you have the passion, you found the investors, and off you went, building your business brick-by-brick. Your small business may be thriving, but what happens when your loyal customers fail to pay you on time, or at all? While consumer protection laws help shield debtors from harassment and unscrupulous behavior from creditors, your small business isn’t without recourse, assuming you follow the law and procedures put in place. You ultimately may end up having to go to court, and will need a lawyer in the process.

Before you call your lawyer, you should first take all reasonable (and legal) steps to collect from your customer or on your contract with another business. If you’ve completed the work or delivered the product, sent the invoice, and have received no response, don’t panic. Use a measured approach to collect on the account. Start by sending a debt collection letter, reminding the customer or account-holder of their missed payments and providing an opportunity to correct the situation. You can send an initial letter, a follow-up letter, and a final demand letter before escalating further.

Whether or not you hire a collection agency will ultimately depend on your specific situation. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to using a debt collection agency, be sure the agency is licensed and bonded and operates in compliance with the U.S. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Remember, there are many consumer protections in place that stop debt collection agencies from harassing or abusing debtors. Be sure you are aware of these protections or you may be in violation of the law.

A lawyer can help you in a number of ways. First, you can receive personalized help with your situation. A lawyer will be able to explain the proper procedures and help you draft a well-crafted debt collection demand letter or offer other solutions to your issue. This may include visiting the customer personally or filing for a mechanic’s lien or materialmen's lien in certain limited situations. A lawyer may also be able to advise you on whether to use a collection agency or seek a court-based remedy to ultimately collect on the debt, i.e. filing a lawsuit and hopefully receiving a judgment in your favor. A lawyer can also guide you through the process of collecting on your judgment.

If you're a small business owner and need help collecting delinquent accounts, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Understanding the Probate Process

A lot of people don't understand what probate is. You'd be surprised how many times we've fielded questions like, "But my dad left a Will, why does it have to go through probate?" Probate is the process where a person's Will is proved to be valid and authentic, an executor is appointed, the estate is valued, beneficiaries are determined, debts are paid, and the estate is transferred to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will.

Some assets can bypass probate, meaning that probate is not required for the transfer of these assets to beneficiaries. Pension plans, life insurance proceeds, 401k plans, health or medical savings accounts, and IRAs that have designated beneficiaries will not need to be probated. Likewise, assets jointly owned with a right of survivorship and property held in a Trust are likely to bypass the probate process.

If you have questions about Wills or the probate process, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Durable Powers of Attorney are an important part of any basic estate plan.

Durable Powers of Attorney are an important part of a basic estate plan. Signing a Power of Attorney gives someone you trust the authority to manage your property and financial affairs and/or make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated and unable to manage these things yourself either because of age, illness, or injury. The alternative to having a Power of Attorney for an incapacitated adult is to get a guardian appointed, which involves lawyers, the Court, reports, annual accountings, lots of time, tons of expenses, etc., and nobody wants that.

If you have questions about incorporating a Durable Power of Attorney into your general estate plan, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When you're injured because of another person's negligence, you have a right to be compensated for your losses.

When you're injured because of another person’s negligence, you have a legal right to be compensated for your losses. The other party (or their insurance company) may not see things the same way. This difference of opinion could result in a settlement offer that is unacceptable. This will start the negotiation process. It could be resolved quickly or take a long time. In extreme cases, it could result in the court system determining the settlement.

Even when you have a valid personal injury claim, it is best you get as much medical attention as necessary prior to thinking about your settlement. A doctor will determine an appropriate treatment plan for the injuries sustained. It is important for your lawyer to have as much information as possible concerning your current as well as future medical needs. After a doctor has determined the cause, seriousness, as well as duration of the injuries, your lawyer will be able to start the process of working toward obtaining a fair settlement.

Your lawyer will know how to use the strengths of a claim to your advantage during the settlement negotiation process. Your lawyer will know the case much better than the insurance adjuster. The lawyer should know how the collision impacted their client’s life. Things such as the other driver’s direct violation of a traffic law causing the accident is a benefit. The other driver being intoxicated, distracted, or having a history of moving violations all make a case stronger. They will know how to tell an insurance adjuster their offer of compensation for damages is low. Your lawyer can provide details explaining the reasons. Knowing the strength of a claim is essential for a lawyer to obtain the best possible settlement.

There are no guarantees when it comes to getting an insurance settlement. It often comes down to being professional and respectful. An insurance adjuster may not show a lot of respect for people who try to negotiate their own settlement. These people won’t have experience and may not understand the laws or the process. An insurance adjuster may be able to easily overwhelm someone with no experience. An experienced lawyer will know the approach insurance adjusters take on a claim. If an insurance adjuster tries to state certain things are required by law, your lawyer will know if they’re telling the truth. Your lawyer will know the process and importance of being aware of all the details concerning a case. They will know how to use this to obtain a fair settlement.

If you or a friend or family member have been injured in an auto collision and need legal advice, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Hiring a lawyer experienced with nonprofit organizations can help you lay the proper foundation so your nonprofit can flourish.

Unlike for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations have their own specialized forms and requirements to fulfill. A lawyer experienced with nonprofit organizations can help you lay the proper foundation so that your organization can flourish.

Your lawyer can advise you on the right form of entity for your organization, depending on the activities and goals you plan to achieve. For instance, your charitable organization may be able to gain a tax-exempt status if you meet conditions set forth in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and maintain specific documents. A political organization, private foundation, or religious organization has different legal and tax obligations.

With the right lawyer, you can also get advice about the management for your nonprofit - such as how to form a board of directors, how to appoint officers, and whether you can form an affiliation.

An experienced lawyer can advise you what types of legal forms and documentation you need to maintain your nonprofit status and aid the education of directors, personnel, and other stakeholders so you can run your organization diligently.

We have been representing nonprofit organizations for over 22 years. If you have questions about how we can be of service to your nonprofit, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Working with a probate lawyer.

Luckily, most people don’t need to hire a lawyer very many times in their lives. And even if you’ve hired a lawyer for a business matter, real estate transaction, or a divorce, working with a lawyer on a probate matter is likely to be a different kind of experience. Some things are the same whenever you hire a lawyer, though. To fully understand what’s going on, you will need to ask a lot of questions. To keep costs down, you can take on some of the routine work yourself.

WHO DOES WHAT? When you’re winding up an estate, there’s usually a lot of legwork to be done—things like making phone calls and gathering documents. Many of these tasks don’t need to be done by a lawyer. So if you’re paying your lawyer hourly, you’ll probably want to volunteer to take on some of this work yourself. Just make sure it’s clear who is responsible for what tasks, so things don’t fall between the cracks. For example, make sure you know who is going to: (1) order death certificates, (2) get appraisals of valuable property, and (3) file the deceased person’s final income tax return.

Many lawyers are more flexible than they used to be about offering what’s called "limited representation" or "unbundled legal services." In other words, many lawyers no longer insist on taking responsibility for all the work of a probate case. They will agree to provide limited services—for example, answering your questions during the probate process—while you take on other tasks traditionally done by the lawyer, such as drawing up the probate court papers. Especially if your local court provides fill-in-the-blanks probate forms, this kind of arrangement may be good for you. Be sure to get your agreement in writing, so both you and the lawyer are clear on your responsibilities.

IMPORTANT DATES. It’s a good idea to ask the lawyer for a list of deadlines—for example, when is the cutoff for creditors to submit claims, and when will the final probate hearing be held, if there needs to be one? This will be helpful both if there are things you need to do, and if creditors or beneficiaries contact you with questions.

DEALING WITH BENEFICIARIES AND CREDITORS. If everyone gets along, it probably makes sense for you, not the lawyer, to field questions from beneficiaries. It will save money, and you’ll know what beneficiaries are concerned about. If you send regular letters or emails to beneficiaries to keep them up to date (this usually helps keep them from stressing), you might ask the lawyer to review your communications before you send them, to make sure you’ve got everything right.

GETTING LEGAL ADVICE AS YOU GO ALONG. Check in with your lawyer regularly to see if anything is happening with the probate case. Usually, no news is good news. State law requires you to keep the probate case open for months, to give people time to come forward with disputes or claims—but in most probates, beneficiaries don’t argue about anything in court, and few creditors submit formal claims.

By all means, ask the lawyer any questions you have about the proceeding. But if the lawyer is charging by the hour, try to be efficient when you communicate. If you can, save up a few questions and ask them during one phone call or visit to the lawyer. But if you are unsure about taking a particular action that will affect the estate—for example, you want to give one needy beneficiary his inheritance months before the probate case will close—get legal advice before you act.

We have been handling probate cases for over 22 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 represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Why is estate planning different for you if you're an artist, author, musician, or songwriter?

Why is estate planning different for you if you're an artist, author, musician, or songwriter?

* Your Personal Representative needs expert advice on what to do with your body of work.
* You need to prevent really awful squabbles about your work. (It happens!)
* You need to say whether your work should be sold, given to beneficiaries and/or charities, or destroyed.
* Your beneficiaries need to know about which works might produce ongoing income (for example, artwork that is licensed or could be licensed).
* All of your work needs to be cataloged - and that catalog kept up to date.
* You need to think about which taxable schemes your estate might address/adopt.
* Your specific works and the publishing rights to those works are two separate assets and need to be addressed as such.

If you have estate planning questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.