Duties of the Personal Representative (Executor) of an Estate

If you've been named Personal Representative of someone's estate (formerly called the Executor or Executrix), your duties will include:

* LOCATING AND SAFEGUARDING THE PROBATE ASSETS. These assets are property that have no other way of passing to a living individual. Life insurance and certain retirement accounts with beneficiary designations pass directly to beneficiaries by operation of law, so they would not be included in the probate estate.

* OBTAINING DATE OF DEATH VALUES FOR THE ESTATE'S ASSETS. This might include ordering appraisals of things like real estate and business interests.

* OBTAINING DATE OF DEATH VALUES FOR NONPROBATE ASSETS. If it appears that the estate will owe estate taxes, values for these assets must be set as well. As of 2019, only gross estates with values of more than $11.4 million are subject to federal estate taxes and only those with gross values of more than $2,193 million are subject to Washington State inheritance tax. The gross taxable estate is the total value of all the decedent owns, both probate assets and property that passes directly to a living beneficiary.

* IDENTIFYING CREDITORS AND PAYING DEBTS. This typically includes running a newspaper notice to alert all companies and individuals to whom the decedent might owe money that a probate is pending and they can then make claims to the estate for what they're owed. The Personal Representative should also send written notices directly to all creditors they can identify and locate.

* PREPARING AND FILING TAX RETURNS. This will include the decedent's final personal income tax returns for the last year of their life, if applicable. If the estate is significantly large, the PR will also prepare the estate tax returns.

* PAYING THE ONGOING EXPENSES OF ADMINISTERING THE ESTATE. The decedent's debts, taxes, and the operating expenses of the estate must be paid before probate closes. This might require that your personal representative sell or liquidate assets to raise the cash.

* DISTRIBUTE THE BALANCE OF THE ESTATE TO THE BENEFICIARIES. This typically requires preparing an inventory and an accounting and obtaining receipts to the be filed with the court.

As you can see, serving as a Personal Representative can be a big responsibility and is often a time-consuming burden. If you've been named as PR of someone's estate and have questions or need legal representation, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.

Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Powers of Attorney for Your Kids Away at College

College is a time of great change for both parents and their kids. Kids are dealing with being on their own for the first time and parents may be on their own for the first time in a long while now that the kids are off to school.

Because people are so intimately involved with raising their children, it’s tempting to see them as just that—children. But in the eyes of the law, the apron strings get cut the minute they turn 18. Once they cross that threshold into adulthood, they are no longer under your agency when it comes to matters both big and small, particularly issues related to emergency health care. That’s why an open understanding with your child is key. You’ve got to communicate to them why you and they need to sign certain key documents together

There are three forms that parents and college students need to fill out. (Don’t worry if your student is already on campus and you haven’t filled these out yet. Just put it on your to-do list and get it done as soon as you can.)

(1) HIPAA AUTHORIZATION. Ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden medical issue? If so, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What you need to cut through the red tape is a HIPAA Authorization. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends, and others that they want to be apprised of their medical info during treatment. Obviously, your student should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency. The HIPAA Authorization becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and gets involved in an accident or has a medical emergency, because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent—unless you fill out this form.

(2) HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A health care power of attorney is a legal document that names you as the parent as an “agent” for your college student. What this means is that if your child becomes medically incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker as you decide the best course of action with the doctors.

(3) DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A medical power of attorney is strictly for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated. A general durable power of attorney, however, covers financial decisions. This document allows a person (in this case, your college student) to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial and legal decisions and to make financial transactions on their behalf. Those transactions can include managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for government benefits and dealing with a landlord.

If you have questions about preparing legal documents for your adult children who are off to school, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can help.

All Clients Want a "Good Lawyer" and All Lawyers Want "Good Clients"

If you've been hurt in an auto collision, you want to make sure you end up with a "good" lawyer for you and your case. And that expectation can work both ways. Every lawyer wants a "good client." But what is a "good client," and how much of being a "good client" is actually within the client's control?

In a nutshell, a good client does whatever is necessary in order to ensure that the case goes as smoothly as possible, and that the best outcome (a fair personal injury settlement, or a win in court) can be reached. That means:

1. RESPOND TO YOUR LAWYER. Clients get pretty upset when their lawyer doesn’t return phone calls. Lawyers feel the same way. If you don’t return your lawyer’s phone calls, emails, or letters promptly, you're not just wasting your lawyer's time, you could also be hurting your case.

2. ATTEND ALL OF YOUR MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS. Your health care provider will note any appointment that you miss, and, if you miss too many, the insurance adjuster (or the jury) is going to assume that you must not have been hurt as badly as you claim. This will cost you and your lawyer money. Be sure to keep all of your appointments.

3. COOPERATE IN THE DISCOVERY PROCESS. If you end up filing a lawsuit, the defendant will send your lawyer written questions called interrogatories, as well as document requests. Your lawyer will send these on to you. You will need to promptly answer the interrogatories and provide your lawyer with the requested documents, or your case could be dismissed. Help your lawyer, and help yourself. Respond to all discovery as quickly as you can.

Practice for your deposition. Your deposition is a very important step in your case. Your lawyer is there to help you prepare, to offer guidance during the proceedings, and even step in if the other side is taking a questionable approach. Follow your lawyer's advice and recommendations.

4. DON'T (ALWAYS) BLAME YOUR LAWYER. Clients who are annoyed that their case isn’t going well will often turn on their lawyer and say that it must be the lawyer’s fault.

Some things are indeed a lawyer’s fault, and any client needs to be attuned to that. But some problems that arise in personal injury cases are the client’s fault, and other obstacles are no one’s fault. Some personal injury cases just aren’t that strong (meaning there's little or no chance of reaching a favorable outcome). Don’t blame the messenger if your lawyer brings bad news. It's not going to help your case.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in an account collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Hiring a Lawyer for Your Business Startup

As a small business owner there can be an overwhelming amount of legalities, regulations, and compliance standards that can get in your way of doing business. One of the best things you can do to mitigate any legal problems is hire a lawyer for a business startup. That’s why we desire to be your partner in understanding and breaking down these barriers, so you can focus on the success of your business.

Business law encompasses all the laws that dictate how you form and run your business. This includes laws that govern how you start or buy a business, how you manage a business, and how you exit a business, whether you close or sell. Because business laws establish all the rules a business should follow, it is important that you are informed and in compliance with new and existing laws on a state and federal level, as well as administrative regulations. When you have a lawyer for a business startup, you can be sure that your business is set up the right way.

We offer a complete business boutique experience beginning with a consultation that concerns the start-up and formation of a business through operations, maintenance, and compliance. We continue to support our clients as processes arise such as the growth and sale of the business.

If you're a small business owner and have questions about how we can be of service, 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.

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.