Estate Planning &
Estate Planning and Probate
Regardless of your net worth, it is important to have a basic estate plan so your family and financial goals are met. There are several legal documents to assure your best interest and wishes are carried out. In addition, transferring ownership of a family business from one generation to another can be complex and sensitive. Are the heirs active in the business? Do they have the skills and expertise to manage the business? Successful transition minimizes risk and disruption and can assist in preserving wealth.
Our probate practice is designed to complete the disposition of clients’ assets in a timely and efficient manner. Our practice includes the preparation of all court filings and, where necessary, federal and state estate tax returns. We also represent estates and beneficiaries in audits by the Internal Revenue Service and the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Wills and Trusts
Wills and revocable trusts are devices you can use to provide for the distribution of your estate upon your death. Deciding whether a will or a revocable trust best fits your needs depends on your circumstances and tax laws. A revocable trust is a popular alternative to the traditional will, but in Washington, wills are generally used because of the streamlined probate system. If real property is located in another jurisdiction, a title holdings revocable trust is often recommended to avoid ancillary probate in the other state.
Our attorneys review business formations and assist in the reorganization of business ownerships to preserve business wealth, retain ownership in the family and reduce estate tax liabilities. This includes creating family limited liability companies (LLCs) or family limited liability partnerships (LLPs).
Charitable giving programs make it possible for clients to contribute and be active within organizations by setting up foundations and charitable trusts.
Our estate planning practice includes drafting wills, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, qualified personal residence trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, gifting, education or care funds for family members, powers of attorney and health care directives. We help plan for full utilization of the federal and Washington state estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes. Now with a “stand alone” Washington estates must be planned to take into account not only federal transfer taxes, but also the Washington tax in order not to “waste” exemptions or income taxes that could otherwise be deferred or reduced.
Estate and Trust Administration
Our attorneys assist personal representatives and trustees in the administration of probate estates and trusts. The practice includes preparation of state and federal estate tax returns, audits, transferring assets and sales of assets.
Our attorneys assist fiduciaries in administration of estates and trusts for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
We advise clients and prepare documents relating to limited or general guardianships and powers and responsibilities of the guardian.
Our attorneys create trusts for use of the gift tax annual exclusion (“Crummey Trust”), irrevocable life insurance trusts, qualified minors’ trusts, children’s and grandchildren’s trusts.
Life Insurance Planning and Trusts
Our services include ownership, beneficiary designations and irrevocable life insurance trusts to avoid estate taxation of life insurance death benefits.
Living Revocable Trusts
Our attorneys draft living trusts that allow you to control the distribution of your estate. This enables you to transfer ownership of your property and assets into the trust. You can serve as the trustee or select a person or an institution to be the trustee. The advantage of a living revocable trust is that you can avoid probate because the trust owns the assets, not the deceased. Only property in the deceased’s name must go through probate.
Powers of Attorney/Healthcare Directives
We draft durable general powers of attorney enabling you to appoint one or more persons (attorney-in-fact or agent) to manage your financial affairs and property, either now or in the future. When you make a durable power of attorney for healthcare, you can give your healthcare agent as much or as little power as feels comfortable to you. Our attorneys are here to assist you in recording what authority can be made for your health care should you become unable to make those decisions yourself. A healthcare directive expresses your wishes regarding artificial life support and use of heroic means to prolong your life if you are unable to communicate your desire.
Probate administration services include having the will admitted to probate (or an intestate administration commenced if there is no will), appointment of personal representatives, inventory of assets and liabilities, transferring assets and making final settlements.
Estate and Trust Litigation
Unfortunately, on occasion, there are “will contests” and other disputes involving the validity, interpretation or administration of a will, probate or trust. Our attorneys represent personal representatives (executors) of estates, trustees and beneficiaries. We strive to find acceptable settlement options, but if necessary, our attorneys are prepared to litigate the matter in court.
Closely held and family-owned businesses must address the future of the businesses after their founders’ retirement or death. Proper succession planning is imperative to ensure the transfer of the business. Our estate planning attorneys understand the legal, financial and personal complexities in this important matter. We develop a plan with executives and business owners to identify successors to own and manage the business or to plan for its disposition. We then prepare documents, including wills, trusts, buy-sell agreements and related agreements, to define the owner’s wishes so they can be implemented after the owner’s death without subjecting the family or the business to an unknown situation.
Our attorneys serve the legal needs of a wide variety of nonprofit organizations, including charitable organizations, trade associations, private foundations and charitable trusts. Services include structuring and formation of tax-exempt and nonprofit entities, obtaining exemption determination letters from the IRS and advising clients on a day-to-day basis about a wide range of non-profit tax and corporate issues.