Hiring a Lawyer for the Probate of a Decedent's Estate

If you've been named Executor or Personal Representative of someone's estate, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer right away. Sure, you can represent yourself and prepare and file all the paperwork with the Court, give notice to all the interested parties and creditors, pay the decedent's final debts and taxes, inventory and appraise the estate, and distribute the remaining assets yourself, but it's so much easier, faster, and, in the long run, cheaper if you hire a lawyer experienced in probate and estate administration to represent you.

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.

We Provide Estate Planning Advice and Representation on a Flat Fee Basis

We represent clients in preparing their estate plans (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, etc.). We provide estate planning legal services on a flat fee basis. The purpose of a flat fee structure is to enable clients to have a better understanding of the costs involved in retaining our services. That way, the client knows exactly how much their bill will be before we start doing any work and there are no surprises. If you would like a copy of our current estate planning fee schedule, give us a call at 253.858.5434 and we'll get one to you right away.

If you've been injured in an auto collision, we can help.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto collision that wasn't their fault, we can help. We'll deal with the insurance companies for you; we'll investigate the facts of the collision; we'll analyze your medical records and evidence of lost income; we'll interview witnesses; and we'll present your claim to the insurance company and negotiate with them to reach a fair and equitable settlement. If we can't settle with the insurance company, we'll file a lawsuit on your behalf and take your case to a judge and jury.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. 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 for a free initial consultation right away.

Do you need a partnership agreement?

When you enter into a business partnership, drafting a partnership agreement is a must. While it is possible to create a partnership without a partnership agreement, doing so is risky and can lead to problems between partners down the road. A well-drafted partnership agreement should address in detail all elements of the business, including the features of the business relationship between the partners.

INVESTMENT AMOUNT AND DIVISION OF LABOR. The first and probably most important items to include in a partnership agreement are the individual investment amounts and the division of labor between partners. Investment in a business is not always monetary – an investment can include providing the building or other real property for the business, as well as specialized equipment for the business. It is important to itemize these types of investments in the partnership agreement.

The next step is to determine which of the partners will take on the management responsibility for the business. It may well be that the partner who invests the most does not, in fact, want to have an active role in managing the business. The partners might also decide to base the control of the partnership on the amount invested, or they may want to divide control equally, giving each partner equal voting power. Determining the roles that each business partner will play in the business is extremely important, as the success of a business often depends on its management. Memorializing this management structure in the partnership agreement is vital.

PROFIT SHARING AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. Other important elements of a partnership agreement include profit sharing and financial management. Everyone involved in the business will hope to turn a profit, but the profits may be paid out in a variety of ways. For instance, the partners may decide to invest a set percentage of the profits back into the business. Another aspect of profit sharing is determining if the managing partners will receive a salary. Deciding how to manage the finances of the business is equally important. The partners will need to choose a bank in which to open the business’s account, whether the business will have a line of credit, and which partners should have signing power for the business’s finances.

MANAGING DISAGREEMENTS AMONG PARTNERS. Other areas that may be covered in the partnership agreement include how to manage any disagreements, as well as how to deal with a partner who wants out of the business. While partnerships are often started by friends, disagreements are natural in any relationship, and it can be helpful to determine how the partners will work out these disagreements as they arise. Further, if a partner decides down the road that he or she wants out of the business, it’s a good idea to state in writing how such a situation will be handled. The partnership agreement can provide details on the buy-out process, taking into account each partner’s initial investment.

Properly creating a business partnership can lead a business down the path to success. Having a partnership agreement that maps out all aspects of the partnership is an essential component of the process. For those unsure of how to begin, or simply want a “legal eye” to look over the draft of a partnership agreement, give us a call at 253.858.5434 for help. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Estate Planning Reviews at the End of April and October Each Year

Guess what we're doing today? At the end of April and October each year, we review our estate planning files and send review letters to our clients to advise them as to any updates or amendments we would recommend and let them know about any changes in the law that could affect them and their estate plans. If you would like a copy of our Estate Planning Review Checklist to see if your estate plan needs updating, or if you haven't prepared an estate plan yet, give us a call at 253.858.5434 and we'll get you a checklist right away.

The Probate Process Essentially Comes Down to These 4 Basic Steps

When someone dies and it comes to administering their estate - the process commonly referred to as "probate” - many people fear it is daunting and complicated, but it can actually be as simple as four basic steps.

(1) File the petition to admit the Will (if there is one) and appoint the Personal Representative with the Court and give notice to heirs and beneficiaries.
(2) Following appointment by the Court, the Personal Representative must give notice to all known creditors of the estate and take an inventory of the estate property.
(3) All estate administrative expenses (including funeral expenses and expenses of the decedent's last illness), debts, and taxes must be paid from the estate.
(4) The estate property is transferred according to the Will or under the state's laws of intestacy (if the decedent did not have a Will).

A properly drafted and executed Will, updated regularly to account for life changes, organized records of debts, personal property, and other assets simplifies the probate process. The easier it is for your Personal Representative to trace your steps after you're gone, the easier the process.

If you have questions about the probate process or if you've been nominated to serve as Personal Representative to administer someone's estate, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help. We've been representing clients in estate administration matters since 1996 and proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho.

Use a Revocable Living Trust when you own real estate in more than one state.

Seems like we've been drafting a lot of Revocable Living Trust Agreements lately. If you own real estate in more than one state, like you have a vacation place in Hawaii or you're moving away to another state but want to keep your house as a rental property, you should put that real estate into a Trust to avoid having to do an "ancillary probate" procedure in that non-domicile state, thereby saving your estate and your heirs a lot of time and expense.

If you have questions about Revocable Living Trusts, give us a call at 253.858.5434. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Helping Our Small Business Clients Prepare Shareholders' Agreements

If your small business is formed as a corporation and you have multiple owners, you should have a shareholders' agreement. A shareholders' agreement establishes the rights and responsibilities of all shareholders who own a share of stock in a corporation and describes how the company should be operated. We can help your company prepare a shareholders' agreement, so your business can run more smoothly.

Some typical issues covered in a shareholder agreement can include:

* Who can serve on the Board of Directors and as an officer, as well as procedures and duties for each.
* What happens to a shareholder’s equity after death, disability, or bankruptcy. This is known as a “buy-sell” provision.
* How a shareholder’s stock can be transferred or sold, including any restrictions on transfer. This might include “right of first refusal,” “drag-along” or “tag-along” provisions.
* Valuation of shares.
* How and when dividends are distributed.
* How the company will be managed.
* Non-competition obligations.
* Dispute resolution.

These are simply some of the many issues a shareholders' agreement can address -- and each of these provisions can be structured in myriad ways, depending on your current needs and future plans. We can walk you through the significance and consequence of each of these decisions and craft a shareholders' agreement tailored to your business.

We represent about 40 or so small businesses throughout Washington and Idaho. If you're a small business owner or are thinking about starting or buying a business, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service.

International Be Kind to Lawyers Day!

Today is International Be Kind to Lawyers Day. It's a real thing - google it. If you're looking for ways to celebrate International Be Kind to Lawyers Day, here are a few suggestions:

1. Take your favorite lawyer out to breakfast or lunch. (Make sure it's not billable!)
2. Send your lawyer a "just because" greeting card.
3. Send him/her some flowers, a fruit basket, or a cookie bouquet.
4. Switch your ring tone to the "dun-dun" sound from "Law & Order."
5. Abstain from telling lawyer jokes for 24 hours. (You can do it!)
6. If you can't abstain, tell your funniest lawyer joke but switch out the lawyer with your profession. I bet it's still funny.
7. If you accidentally say something wrong or inappropriate on this day, just follow it up with the words, "Strike that from the record." Then continue talking as if nothing happened.
8. Salute the flag as you walk or drive by your local courthouse.
9. Watch your favorite legal drama and pretend you're the one delivering the powerful closing argument. Some suggested films: "The Verdict," "To Kill A Mockingbird," "A Few Good Men," and "With Justice For All."
10. Do some simple repairs around the house with a gavel instead of your trusty hammer.
11. Try to slip words like "I object!" or "You're out of order!" into your everyday conversations.
12.Try to write up your own Operating Agreement for an LLC or draft your own Will. See? It's harder than it looks.
13. Take notes at a meeting on a legal pad. Don't you just feel smarter looking at the glorious yellow hue of that 8-1/2" x 14" pad?

We Represent Clients to Administer Trusts and Estates

We represent clients who have been appointed to administer someone's estate, either as Personal Representative or Trustee. We will advise these clients on giving notice to the appropriate parties, inventorying and appraising the assets, paying the final debts and taxes, and distributing the assets according to the Will, the Trust Agreement, or the state's laws of intestate succession.

If you have questions about the probate process or Trust administration, 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.

Hiring a Lawyer to Help with Your Personal Injury Case

If you've been injured in an auto collision, hiring a lawyer to help you navigate through the claims process helps tremendously. We have over 20 years' experience representing injured people and their survivors. We'll investigate the facts of the collision, gather your medical records, research the issues of liability, and advise you as to the value of your claim. We'll negotiate with the insurance company for you, and if we can't reach a settlement with the insurance company, we'll file suit and bring your case 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 set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Choosing an LLC over an S Corporation

As a small business owner, protecting your personal assets and your company is a high priority. Forming your business as a limited liability company (LLC) allows you to do this quickly and flexibly, while minimizing your tax burden. When you are ready to formally separate your business and personal assets, but don’t intend to go public or take on outside investment, an LLC can be a great option. Weighing the pros and cons of an any business structure is critical, which is why discussing your options with an experienced lawyer can help you make the optimal, best-informed decision.

WHAT IS AN LLC?

An LLC is a distinct entity with the ability to use its own tax ID number, open a bank account, and do business under its own name. The LLC operates as a type of hybrid of a corporation and a partnership. Like a corporation, an LLC limits the legal liabilities of the owners, called "members." Like a partnership, the LLC is a pass-though entity for tax purposes, which means that individual members are taxed only once on any profits to the LLC, as a form of personal income (unless they elect otherwise in the Operating Agreement).

OPERATING AGREEMENTS.

An LLC is governed by an operating agreement that details member responsibilities, operating procedures, governance, and any other business and legal frameworks needed. LLCs are flexible in terms of structure, which means that the operating agreement is vitally important. In an operating agreement, you can select tax structure, member rights, and really just about any facet of your business to fit the needs of your business. Unlike bylaws for a corporation, in most states, an operating agreement is optional (though advisable) for an LLC.

ADVANTAGES OF AN LLC.

There are many advantages to forming as an LLC. The following are the three most important to most small business owners:
* No Double Taxation. Since profits are not taxed at the company level, profits disbursed to members are not taxed twice.
* Less Paperwork. There is less required compliance needed to be an LLC in good legal standing. That means that you generally file less paperwork and less is required to establish a formal LLC.
* Flexibility. Everything about an LLC can be customized. With a well-written operating agreement, you and your lawyer can create specific rules that govern your business in the most advantageous way possible considering your unique situation. This makes LLCs highly scalable and easy to adapt to changing business realities.

DISADVANTAGES OF AN LLC.

LLCs also have some serious disadvantages. The following are two of the most important to consider before choosing an LLC.
* Less Attractive to Investors. Most investors prefer to only invest in corporations, due to the predictable structure and the ease with which they can be issued stock. LLCs cannot issue stock, which means that becoming a member is generally more complex. If you are looking to go public, an LLC may not be the best choice.
* Higher Personal Taxes. While you are not going to be subject to double taxation, LLCs traditionally get taxed as pass-thorough entities, which means that, as a member, you may be responsible for the higher self-employment taxes personally because you will be taking a "draw" as opposed to a salary.

We can help you decide whether an LLC is the right form for your business. In order to do so, we’ll ask a series of questions about your current situation and future plans. Once you’ve selected the appropriate corporate form, we will walk you through completing your formation and drafting governance documents. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment to talk with us about starting up your business!

What is probate?

When someone dies and they've left behind real estate, securities, or other assets, their estate usually has to go through probate to transfer those assets to their heirs and beneficiaries. Probate is the court-supervised process where a decedent's assets are gathered, inventoried, and appraised, appropriate parties are given notice, final bills and taxes are paid, and the assets ultimately distributed according to the decedent's Will or, if there was no Will, according to the State's laws of intestate succession.

If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker is in charge of probating an estate, give us a call to see how we can be of service. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Reviewing and Updating Your Estate Plan When You Move to a New State

We know you've been told that you need to make a Will. But ideally, life doesn't stop when you finally get around to making one. Life goes on and changes in myriad ways. You might marry, have children, or divorce--all big events that require amending your Will. But what if you just move from one state to another? Legally speaking, an estate plan properly drafted and signed under one state's laws will most likely be valid in any other state.

But in reality, estate plans don't always cross state lines very well. You might want to consider amending your Will and other estate planning documents as well for a few reasons.

Each state has its own laws when it comes to creating and implementing documents like Wills, Trusts, Health Care Directives, and Powers of Attorney. This means that after you move, your estate planning documents may function in your new state, but your estate could have some extra hurdles to overcome.

There's also the issue of your personal representative--he or she may still reside in your old state as well. Some states have laws requiring that personal representatives reside in the state where your Will is being probated. If your new state is one of them, the court will appoint another personal representative to handle your estate, perhaps not a person you would have chosen.

If you've moved to a new state, or if your estate plan is more than a few years old, have it reviewed by an experienced estate planning lawyer in your current location. It's also a good idea to get your estate plan reviewed in states where you own real estate or a business because chances are your documents will need to work there, too.

We have over 21 years' experience representing clients and advising them on their estate plans. 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. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Giving Back to Our Community and Our Profession

Here at the Law Offices of P. Stephen Aita, we're very proud of the work we do to give back to our community and our profession. Here's a list of the organizations we're involved with, giving our time and resources to provide pro bono legal assistance, volunteering, and serving on nonprofit organizations' Boards of Directors:

* Judson Park Retirement Community
* Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations
* Lawyers Helping Hungry Children
* Pierce County AIDS Foundation
* Greater Tacoma Community Foundation
* Washington Lawyers for the Arts
* Washington State Bar Association Lawyer-to-Lawyer Mentorship Program
* King County Bar Association's Volunteer Attorneys for People with HIV/AIDS
* Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association Wills & Probate Clinic