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Seattle Probate Attorneys

Our Probate Attorney Helps During Difficult Times

Probate is a court-supervised legal process that may be required after someone dies, and probate law governs what happens with the deceased person’s property. After death, probate gives your representative the authority to gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and eventually transfer assets to the people you wish to inherit them.

While no one wants to be thinking about their death, working with a Seattle probate law attorney now, when you are able to do so, can ensure that your loved ones will be provided for after you are gone and that your estate and finances will be handled the way you want them to be.

While probate is not required in all situations in Washington state, a probate lawyer can help you avoid problems and conflicts that may arise after your death, protect the personal representative of your estate, and ensure that your estate is properly distributed to your heirs.

Our Seattle probate attorney at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess can help you avoid problems  with the probate process. We can also create an estate plan that will make you feel confident your loved ones will be provided for and your plans will be implemented. Our probate lawyers will handle your estate effectively, efficiently, and professionally while providing excellent personal service.

Contact us today to talk about your individual concerns, so call our offices at 206-621-1110.

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Our probate services include the following:

  • Explaining the legal process after a relative has passed on, and postmortem estate planning.
  • Assisting you in filing a will
  • Protecting your assets for heirs/beneficiaries
  • Guardianships
  • Assistance with contesting a will, including claims of undue influence
  • Representation in probate, estate, and trust litigation
  • Formal and summary probate administration
  • Estate and trust administration
  • Representation of personal representatives
  • Appointment of a special administrator.

Why Choose Our Seattle Probate Attorneys?

probate law book on desk with gavel and pen

There are many attorneys out there, and it is important to find one that makes you feel comfortable and has the compassion, knowledge and skills to handle complex estate issues.  Here are some reasons why we feel Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess is your best choice:

Experience and Compassion – We understand that you and your family may be going through a very difficult and stressful time as you make final arrangements or cope with the estate of a loved one. Put our decades of experience as Seattle probate attorneys to work for you to smooth the process and reduce stress by handling all court filings, paperwork, tax issues, phone calls, inventorying, etc.

Skilled Probate Attorneys – Estate planning and probate are highly specialized areas of law, and our attorneys have learned the skills and gained the experience needed to help you and your family get the results you want. Attorney Thomas Dickson founded the firm over 30 years ago, and we have been helping clients ever since.

Affordability – Estate planning and probate help isn’t just for the rich. Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess is committed to providing great service in all areas of probate, trust, and estate planning, at rates you can afford. Our fees may be a fraction of the cost of the problems resulting if you proceed without legal advice or representation and make mistakes.

When you have our probate lawyers working for you, you can leave the court filings, paperwork, tax issues, phone calls, inventorying, etc., to us, so you can live your life and focus on your family. Call Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess today at (206) 621-1110 (Seattle).

Client Testimonial

”I could not recommend Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess more. They provided a thorough expertise in the matter of my legal needs surrounding probate. The best of all, I was able to get friendly legal paid assistance without having to step inside the law office myself. Throughout the entirety of the legal process my Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess provided friendly, efficient and knowledgeable lawyers, paralegals, and accountants. Each of these well trained and, I’ll say it again, Friendly, staff members made themselves available throughout the work day and sometimes after hours to help me understand the legal hurdles we faced. All in all, I could not recommend DF enough. Thanks to Daniel, Jennie and the rest of the team at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess.” – Nicholas Finley (Google Review)

What Does A Seattle Probate Attorney Do?


Many individuals appointed as personal representatives don’t know how the probate process works or what obligations must be fulfilled before the estate’s assets can be distributed. Our Seattle probate lawyers can provide you with the advice and guidance you need to successfully administer an estate and help with the wide variety of issues that can arise from a loved one’s death and the subsequent transfer of assets.

When you retain our probate attorneys, we will handle a broad range of tasks for you, including:

Court Procedures

We file the probate petition to get the executor established by the court. There are numerous pleadings that must be filed with the probate court, including an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets. We also make arguments to the court if there is a will contest or the validity of the will is questioned.


Creditors of the estate must be given notice of the probate action. We address the creditors’ claims and respond to any inquiries.

Estate Taxes

We know how to minimize estate taxes to help ensure that the bulk of the estate is passed to beneficiaries rather than to the government.

Transfer Assets

We help transfer the deceased’s title to real estate and other assets to the named beneficiaries.

Guardian Issues

If a minor child has lost his/her parents, we assist with issues related to establishing a legal guardian for the minor.


In some cases, we are named in the deceased’s will as the executor of the estate. This means that we are paid a fee out of the estate to handle all tasks related to the probate of the will.

Services Our Probate Lawyers Offer

Our Seattle Probate Lawyers Can Help You Understand Probate Law

Our probate lawyers provide a wide range of services.  These include the following:

  • Explaining the legal process after a relative has passed on, and postmortem estate planning
  • Assisting you in filing a will
  • Protecting your assets for heirs/beneficiaries
  • Guardianships
  • Assistance with contesting a will, including claims of undue influence
  • Representation in probate, estate, and trust litigation
  • Formal and summary probate administration
  • Estate and trust administration
  • Representation of personal representatives
  • Appointment of a special administrator.

Our Seattle Probate Lawyers Explain Probate Law

Whether you are setting up your own estate or are responsible for a loved one’s, ignorance is not bliss. Here are some essential things you should know:

Understanding Estates

Though the probate process is not always needed, the process can protect the estate’s personal representative (the person in charge of the estate) from legal claims and ensure that the estate is correctly distributed to the beneficiaries (those named in the will to receive assets).

Duties of a Personal Representative

The representative organizes the estate’s important documents and wealth, pays debts and taxes, and, with what’s left over, spreads the assets according to the will’s instructions. The process helps those owed money by the deceased and creates the beneficiaries’ rights to the deceased’s assets. If there is no valid will, assets remaining would be sent to the person’s closest family members, based on Washington state’s probate law.

The Difference Between “Intestate” and “Testate”

If the deceased has a will, he or she died “testate.” If there is no will or the person made what he or she thought was a valid will, but the person was mistaken, the person died “intestate” and Washington state law spells out which family members may get assets from the estate.

How Probate and Non-Probate Assets Differ

An estate can have non-probate and probate assets. The difference between the two is:

  • The language of the legal documents creating non-probate assets controls what happens to them.
  • Probate assets are controlled by the will, or state law if there is no will.

Non-probate can go directly to your heirs and include:

  • Bank and financial accounts set up with “right of survivorship” language (if one dies before the other, the survivor owns what’s in the account).
  • Property owned in “joint tenancy” with rights of survivorship, which means both parties own it. If one dies before the other, the survivor owns the property.
  • Assets that are community property (owned by two people) under state law, assuming there’s a marriage or a community-property agreement.
  • Life insurance policies with a beneficiary who will get the proceeds when the insured dies (as long as the designated beneficiary is not the estate).
  • Other assets controlled by a beneficiary, such as a 401(k) or an investment account naming someone as the beneficiary if the account holder dies.

A Probate Attorney’s Role in Mental Capacity and Estate Planning

Under Washington state’s probate statute (title 11 RCW), anyone “of sound mind” at least 18 years old can create a valid will. For the will to be valid the person must understand:

  • What he or she owns
  • Who will be getting it
  • That the will is how ownership will transfer.

These criteria must be met when the will was signed. If our Seattle probate lawyers have any doubt that a client may have problems with capacity, we will talk to the person’s doctor, if possible, to see whether the person should write a will or other legal document.

Six Important Questions Our Probate Lawyer Answers

Probate law covers what happens to a deceased person’s property after their death. Their assets (their possessions and wealth) and liabilities (taxes, fees, debts, bills) become their “estate,” which legally owns them after their death. Through probate, it’s decided what will be done with both: which bills must get paid, which assets are sold to pay them, who gets what assets that are left over.

The probate process applies whether or not there is a will. Through a will you can nominate someone to be responsible for the estate; the court will decide who will be the personal representative. Where there is no will, people can ask the court for that job. If you have a will and a minor child, you can also nominate your child’s guardian. Your will should include named beneficiaries. These are people, charities, or trusts who will get assets after your debts are paid. Without a will, the next of kin get the assets based on state statute.

An estate that’s “small” need not go through the whole probate process. If the assets’ value subject to probate — not including a surviving spouse’s or domestic partner’s community property interest, less liens and encumbrances — is $100,000 or less, there are much simpler procedures. Assets that need not be probated and wouldn’t count toward the $100,000 include:

  • Those owned in joint tenancy with others
  • Assets that are part of a community-property agreement which is signed by the deceased and their spouse or domestic partner
  • Where a beneficiary is named outside a will. This includes bank, investment, and retirement accounts; life insurance proceeds; and pension benefits.
  • Assets held by a revocable living trust.

An inheritor would create an affidavit and file it with the court. It would state that they’re entitled to a certain asset, along with other facts. If it, along with the death certificate, is presented to the party holding an asset, it should be released to the inheritor. Written notice must be sent to other inheritors at least 10 days before filing the affidavit.

Probate requires many documents and a lot of information. If it’s possible, start preparing before your loved one passes away. If he or she is elderly, chronically ill, or severely disabled, get answers from them so you’ll waste as little time as possible after their death. You should:

  • Find a will and any codicils (changes to the will). If there are none, ask your family member to consider estate planning so their wishes can be followed. If you can’t find a will, contact your family’s attorney, if you have one, to see if a will was executed. Ask family members or friends to see if the deceased talked about a will and where it might be. You could also search through files and safe deposit boxes where important papers are held.
  • Order several copies of the death certificate.
  • Find and organize life insurance policies, property appraisals, bank and investment account information, as well as documents concerning real estate, vehicle, and investment ownership. You should also get income and property tax documents.

You should hire a Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess probate lawyer because we will give you peace of mind. A complex process will be taken care of; you’ll be fully aware of what’s going on; we’ll advise you about what needs to be done; and you’ll be able to spend your time living your life – not learning probate law or spending time in court.

Our probate attorneys in Seattle know the process and will keep the case moving as quickly as possible. Required notices will be sent and pleadings will be filed in court. Your family may pull together after your loved one’s death or pull apart due to arguments over inheritances. We will keep you on track and doing the right things if this happens. Our firm will also deal with creditors and tax authorities.

A probate lawyer will file necessary tax forms and make sure inheritances are distributed properly, obtain releases, and make sure the estate is finalized and closed by the court. We will also defend you and the estate in any court challenges.

In Washington State, the Superior Court is responsible for the process. Under state law, it should start in the county where the decedent resided or died or where the property owned by a nonresident decedent is located.

If you have additional questions, please contact a Seattle probate attorney at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess at (206) 429-6931.

Probate Attorneys Help Prevent Mistakes

Numerous estate planning mistakes can lead to probate problems that can cause a lot of stress, conflict, expense, and wasted time and money for your personal representative and beneficiaries. Here are some common mistakes our attorneys can help prevent.

Mistake 1: Not Doing Any Estate Planning

If you want a say in who gets your property after a death, you should have a will. A lawful estate plan will make sure your wealth will go to those you want to receive it and charities you wish to support a charity.

Mistake 2: Failing to Keep Your Estate Plan Current

Update your estate plan as your life changes and assets may increase or decrease. Changing your estate plan over time can reflect the changes in your life.

Mistake 3: Failing to Plan for Incapacity

Estate planning is also about limiting the harm that could happen if you lose mental and/or physical ability while you’re alive. You can create different powers of attorney, and documents that allow others to make decisions for you.

  • A financial power of attorney gives someone the ability to control your finances
  • A healthcare power of attorney will name someone to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself, such as what kind of treatment you want and don’t want.
  • A healthcare directive or living will is similar but goes into effect only if you’re terminally ill.

Mistake 4: Confusing or Contradictory Documents

Estate planning documents should be simple and clearly state how your wealth should be shared and who gets it. Complicated or confusing ways to share wealth or making rules about how people can benefit from the estate will probably create problems among your family members and possibly lead to lawsuits over the will’s legality.

Mistake 5: Failing to Understand What Might Happen to Non-Probate Assets or Those Not Mentioned in Your Will

A will does not impact joint or shared accounts with “right of survivorship” (see above). If you don’t want the person with a legal right to your account to gain ownership after your death, you need to make changes while you still can.

Mistake 6: Creating or Altering a Will for the Wrong Reasons

A proper reason is to help people and causes you care about. A wrong reason is to try to control a family member’s life after your death or to vent your anger.

Call Our Seattle Probate Lawyers for Help

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If you want to make sure your wishes are carried out after you are gone, the Seattle probate lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess are here to help you and your family on a wide range of estate planning and probate matters.

We provide personalized service based on your needs and earn our clients’ trust every day by educating them about the law, giving them options, creating plans that work, properly writing legal documents, and ensuring their plans are implemented.

When our probate lawyers perform estate planning, we make sure legal papers are valid and help prevent possible legal challenges. If you use a “do it yourself” online will form or a lawyer who doesn’t know estate planning well, it increases the chances that probate will get complicated with legal challenges.

Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess probate lawyers will help you and your family with any probate matters you face. Call us today at one of our office at 206-621-1110 to see how we can help with all your probate and estate planning needs.

Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess – Seattle Office

2101 4th Ave #700
Seattle, WA 98121

P: (206) 621-1110