What do we do when we represent the Personal Representative of an Estate?

If you've been named Executor in someone's Will, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer to represent you and the estate. Initially, the lawyer files the Will and the probate petition with the Court to appoint someone as the Executor (now called the "Personal Representative" or "PR"). The lawyer's job is also to handle all other required proceedings in court. For example, the lawyer may file or defend a Will contest to decide who becomes PR. The lawyer deals with creditors’ claims and also gives notice to creditors, and heirs, beneficiaries, and other people who are entitled to receive notice of the probate.

After all the various administrative tasks have been completed, the lawyer prepares and files either a Declaration of Completion or a Petition for Final Distribution. Both of these documents report to the Court what the PR has done during their term of administration. The final probate pleadings account to the heirs for the assets and money that have come into the personal representative’s hands.

The lawyer may further deal with the lawyer handling an ancillary probate if any property is owned in another state. Non-probate issues can also arise which require legal attention, like getting, receiving, or obtaining payment of life insurance and dealing with things like payment of annuities.

One of the purposes of lawyer is to advise the PR regarding his or her legal duties and make sure those duties are carried out. A PR is a fiduciary to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate. This means that the PR has a duty of care to those people and is required to set aside his or her personal interests in favor of the beneficiaries.

One primary task that must be done is preparing and filing a full and final account of what the PR has done during their term as PR. This includes information about bank accounts and deposits, amounts received, bills paid, dispositions of stocks and bonds including gains and losses on sales, sales of securities and receipts of dividends or losses on the sales. Accountings can become quite complicated. If nothing else, most PRs eventually use a lawyer to perform the accounting function at least.

Often, in more complicated estates, an accounting firm that is familiar with court accounting requirements is hired to do the actual accounting. The lawyer receives and reviews the accounting and drafts a petition for final distribution and accounting. This way, the heirs are informed regarding what went on in the estate, and how much each is entitled to.

Probating an estate can be difficult and complicated. If a friend or loved one has passed away and named you as their Executor, we can help make the probate administration process as painless for you as possible. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment to see how we can help.

Collaborating with an Estate Planning Lawyer in the United Kingdom

We recently got to collaborate on an estate plan with a lawyer in the UK. Our client is an immigrant and now a U.S. citizen, but still owns her family's house in Scotland. It was interesting to see how the laws of Wills and inheritance in the U.S. and the UK are so closely related yet different - where Washington law has clearly descended from English and Spanish law yet has evolved with the times, the law in Scotland is much the same as it was 300 years ago.

And this is also a good opportunity for us to remind you that people who own real estate in more than one country - or even more than one state - have special estate planning needs. We can help with that. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment.

Representing People Who've Been Injured in Auto Collisions

We have a long history of representing people who have been injured in auto collisions. We believe that people who have been hurt in auto collisions have a right to compensation for their injuries. If you or a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in a car crash because of someone else's negligence, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Looking to buy or open a new bar or restaurant? We can help with your legal needs.

We handle all of the legal needs for clients in the hospitality industry. We understand the nuances of starting a restaurant or bar. We start with business plan review and drafting subscription agreements to help you raise money, we then move on to forming a company and drafting partnership agreements to seal the deal, and then we review and negotiate a solid lease so you can get your place up and running. We will also make sure that all of your licensing is in order prior to opening for business. Additionally, you must make sure that your licenses, once obtained, are up to date, remain in good standing, and have been amended if necessary. We can assist you in obtaining a liquor license, health department permit, and any other permits or licenses issued by the Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board, Department of Revenue, your county Health Department, or other county or city licensing agencies. We will make sure that you are protected and we will give you the best chance to open and run a successful bar or restaurant.

Once your company has been formed, perhaps the most crucial document in your company must be drafted. For corporations, this is the “shareholder agreement” and for LLCs it's the “operating agreement.” These documents are the agreement between you and your partners and will govern your rights and responsibilities as you move forward with your business. No matter who you go into business with, whether it’s your best friend, spouse, or coworker, it is absolutely imperative that you take the time to have a lawyer draw up this agreement. We will ensure that the agreement will address specific issues relevant to the bar and restaurant industry so that in the event that an issue arises, you can turn to the agreement for direct answers.

And then during the course of your business, you will be required to sign a variety of contracts and may wish to draw up your own. We have experience reviewing, negotiating, and drafting all types of contracts including chef and general manager employment agreements, vendor contracts, and anything else that you may want to memorialize in a contract.

If you're a bar or restaurant owner, or are looking to open a new place or buy an existing one, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help you.

What is probate?

Probate is essentially the legal method in which someone, often called the “Executor” or "Personal Representative," is appointed to deal with the courts, taxing authorities, property and stock brokers, banks and other creditors, appraisers, and lawyers. The Personal Representative’s job is to dispose of the estate in a manner that best fulfills the testator’s intent: paying the testator’s taxes and lawful debts, making certain that bequests are paid, disposing of real or personal property, establishing trust funds for specific purposes, and preserving the estate’s value to the greatest possible degree.

The Personal Representative is tasked with probating a Will in accordance with the testator's wishes and design, notifying all applicable parties of the estate distribution, determining the assets of the estate, and distributing the estate in accordance with the wishes of the testator and all applicable law. If no Will is available, then the Personal Representative is tasked with handling the affairs of the estate in accordance with state laws of intestacy.

We are available to assist you in the event that you need assistance through the difficult tasks inherent in the probate administration process. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Discount on Estate Planning Legal Services During November

November is a pretty big deal around here. This November marks 21 years of practicing law and 5 years since moving our office to Gig Harbor! To commemorate, if you retain us for estate planning services during the month of November, we'll knock 50% off your legal fees. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment.

Estate Planning File Reviews at the End of October and April Every Year

Well it took all day, but guess what we spent the day doing yesterday? At the end of October and April every year, we review our estate planning files and send review letters to clients. We review these files so that we can alert clients as to changes in state or federal laws which could affect them and indicate a need to update their estate plans. We recommend that clients regularly examine their estate plans and suggest such review be made at least once every 3-4 years, and more often if there have been major changes in family size, relationships, or assets.

If you would like a copy of our checklist of things that might warrant a change in your estate plan or if you think your estate plan should be reviewed or changed in any way, call us at 253.858.5434 for an appointment so that we can meet to discuss your needs and help revise your estate plan to fit your current needs.

Estate Planning for the Specific Needs of Licensed Professionals

Licensed professionals can have specific needs regarding their estate plans. For our clients who are lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, financial planners, etc., we often include provisions in their Will or Trust for the appointment of a "Special Administrator" or "Professional Advisor" with knowledge of the client's profession who can help protect the interests of their clients and to wind down or close their practice, including selling of the practice, collecting accounts receivable, paying expenses relating to the practice, reconciling trust accounts, refunding any unused trust account balances owing to the professional's clients, employing another professional to review their client's files, complete unfinished work, notifying their clients of the professional's death and assisting them in finding other lawyers, dentists, accountants, etc., and providing their malpractice carrier and any professional regulatory body with the name of the person who will be responsible for the long-term storage of and access to the professional's closed files. These provisions often work hand-in-hand with the client's business succession planning for their practices.

If you (or a friend, family member, or neighbor) are a lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, architect, engineer, financial planner, or other licensed professional and you have questions about we can meet your practice's and your specific circumstances' estate planning or business succession planning needs, 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.

Every Family's Circumstance is Unique and Therefore Requires a Unique Estate Plan

Every family's circumstance is unique. Some families' situations call for a little more complex estate plans. Second marriages, especially where there are children from previous relationships or where one spouse brings substantially more property to the marriage than the other, families with special needs children or other dependents, and families who own small family businesses all have special estate planning requirements. We have experience advising clients and preparing comprehensive estate plans for all of these situations.

If you have questions about planning your estate to fit your family's unique circumstances, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make 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.

10 Reasons Why You Should Call a Lawyer If You've Been Hurt in an Auto Collision

If someone injured you through their negligent driving, then you have rights under the law. You want to make sure to protect those rights after an auto collision so you don’t end up paying - financially and personally - for someone else’s negligence. In some cases, you may need to file a lawsuit after a collision. Why is it important to talk to a lawyer after you've been in a collision?

1. You have only a limited time to file suit. In most states, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident claim is between 1 and 3 years. If you don’t file suit within that time, you give up your right to sue forever.

2. You may need to comply with certain rules in order to file suit. A lawyer who is experienced in handling personal injury cases will be familiar with the law and can help you make sure you don’t do anything that jeopardizes your rights.

3. Insurance companies may have different agendas than yours. Most insurance companies aim to protect their insureds and to compensate them for damages. However, insurance companies also aim to keep costs down, reduce their overhead, and make money for their shareholders. Since your agenda and the insurance companies' agenda may not perfectly align, hiring a lawyer can be the best way to insure you have someone on your side.

4. You may not fully understand all of your potential damages. There are a slew of potential damages available to people who are injured in auto collisions. In addition to medical bills, you may be able to recover for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Your family members may even be able to recover for the loss of your companionship if you have become incapacitated. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you may not be aware of all of your potential legal rights to recovery.

5. Proving liability can be complex. Even with witnesses and a police report saying the other party is at fault, proving that they were negligent can be difficult. Since there are many elements that go into winning a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to hire a lawyer who understands the law and who can provide references to sources of law that support your position.

6. The laws differ from state to state: Auto insurance and auto collision rules are decided by each individual jurisdiction. For example, there are 12 “no fault” states in the U.S. in which you cannot sue after a car accident except in special circumstances. Likewise, in some states, you can sue even if you were partially at fault for the accident (called "comparative negligence" states) while in others, if you contributed to causing the accident you can’t sue (called "contributory negligence"). A lawyer in your area can help explain all the nuances of the law within your jurisdiction to you, so you will fully understand all of your rights.

7. You need to understand settlement options: Most cases settle out of court, which means the defendant or his insurance company is likely to make you an offer. Your lawyer can help you understand the implications of accepting this offer, since once you accept, you give up your right to sue forever. Your lawyer can also help you to evaluate whether settling is the best option in your case or not.

8. Filing a lawsuit requires adhering to complex rules. If you decide to bring a lawsuit, you will have to file the appropriate papers in court. This is not as simple as going to the court house and announcing your intent to sue. A number of complex rules exist on everything from the font size of the brief to how precedent is cited and what evidence is admissible. You will need a lawyer to guide you through the complicated process of litigation.

9. Proving your case can be even more complex – Just as filing your case is complex, proving your case is even more so. You may be permitted to “discover" certain information from the other side, and you may be limited in the types of witnesses and evidence you present. There are even restrictions on the kind of questions and phrasing of questions you ask in court. Furthermore, extensive legal research often needs to be done to convince the jury to side with you. As such, it is very difficult to prove personal injury liability on your own.

10. If you don’t hire a lawyer, you could be faced with financial loss. If you don’t file suit in time, if you don’t claim the right damages or sue the right defendants, and if you lose your case as a result of improperly presenting your information, you will be barred from bringing suit again. This means you will have used up your only chance for recovery and you will be stuck with all the costs and bills as a result of the collision that someone else carelessly caused.

If you've been injured in an auto collision, give us a call to see how we can help. We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. Call us at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Bad Faith Claims Against Insurance Companies

You did your part to protect yourself and your family. You purchased auto insurance, health insurance, life insurance, or a homeowner’s insurance policy. You paid all your premiums and followed all the rules. Then, through no fault of your own, you suffer a serious injury in an auto collision or something catastrophic happens to your house.

The natural place to look to for help is your insurance company. Your insurance company is required to act fairly and in good faith and to consider the interests of its policyholders equal to its own interests. Often, however, this is not the case. Unfortunately, your insurance company’s main goal, no matter how nice and accommodating, is to give you the least amount of money possible for your claim. Insurance companies have teams of adjusters and lawyers to protect their own interests, not yours.

Insurance bad faith laws protect consumers from unethical practices by insurance companies such as:

* Refusal to pay a claim in compliance under your policy
* Delaying claim processing
* Requiring excessive forms and reports
* Making partial claim payments or cancelling coverage because of a claim
* Inadequate claim investigation
* Refusal to defend a lawsuit
* Threats against an insured
* Refusing to make a reasonable settlement offer
* Denying health insurance coverage after a medical diagnosis

Regrettably, bad faith claims by insurance companies happen far too often. We help our clients obtain full compensation for their injuries and damages; we are committed to providing every client with the support and resources they need to reach an improved, more secure place in life. We are aggressive, resourceful litigators with multiple years of experience in dealing with less than helpful insurers. We take pride in our work and are not afraid to take on insurance companies.

Not every denial of a claim amounts to bad faith. However, if you think your insurance company is acting in bad faith, it just might be. If you feel something is not right or your insurance company is treating you unfairly, do not hesitate to contact us at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Preparing an Estate Inventory and Appraisement

When you've been appointed Personal Representative of an Estate, one of your jobs is to prepare an Estate Inventory & Appraisement. The Inventory must be prepared within 90 days after the date of your appointment and a copy must be made available to any heir, distributee, unpaid creditor who has filed a claim, some beneficiaries of nonprobate assets, or the Dept. of Revenue within 10 days of their requesting a copy. The Estate's lawyer will usually prepare the final draft of the Inventory in a form acceptable to the Court. The Inventory does not need to be filed with the Court unless so requested by an interested party. The law requires that the assets in the inventory be categorized as follows: (1) Real Estate; (2) Stocks & Bonds; (3) Mortgages, notes, and other written evidences of debt owed to the decedent; (4) Bank accounts and money; (5) Furniture and household goods; and (6) All other personal property.

If you've been appointed Personal Representative of a loved one's estate and have questions about your duties and responsibilities, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out 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 or FaceTime.

Sometimes things happen in life that might warrant changes to your Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, etc.

Sometimes things happen in life that might warrant some changes to your Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, etc. Things like marriages, divorces, births, adoptions, deaths, buying or selling a family business, or changes in your health or your spouse's health. We recommend our clients review their estate plans every 3 or 4 years, or more often if major changes in family circumstances occur.

If you've had a life event come up that makes you think you should review your estate plan, 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 or FaceTime.

Dealing With Insurance Companies on Behalf of Injured Clients

Insurance companies! They're a pain to deal with, right? If you've been injured in an auto collision and it was somebody else's fault, we'll deal with the insurance company for you. We'll investigate and compile all the information you need to present your claim to the at-fault driver's insurance company, like property damage records, police reports, medical records, wage loss evidence, and witness statements. We'll present your claim and negotiate with the insurance company to get you a just and fair settlement. And if we can't come to an agreement with the insurance company, we'll bring a lawsuit on your behalf and take your claim to a judge and jury.

If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation.

We represent small businesses and their owners through all stages of the business's life.

If you're a small business owner, we can help you. If you're just starting up and need help preparing Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws (if you're a corporation) or a Certificate of Formation and Operating Agreement (if you're an LLC), we can do that. If your business is already established and you need help preparing service contracts, employment agreements, non-disclosure or non-compete agreements, vendor contracts, leases, etc., we can do that. If things have taken a turn and you need a lawyer to help prosecute or defend a lawsuit or collect a delinquent account, we can do that.

Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see what we can do to help you. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.