Tacoma Estate Planning Lawyer

When you’re looking into the future and planning for the days ahead, consider creating an estate plan.

Contrary to the belief that estate planning is only for older individuals or those with extensive property and assets, it is for everyone. If you’re an adult, you should consider creating an estate plan to protect your future and pave a clear path for loved ones after your passing.

The Tacoma estate planning lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess have countless years of experience producing estate plans for clients from every walk of life. When you’re ready to plan for your future, contact us.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is essentially planning for the future of your estate after you pass away. When you engage in estate planning, an estate planning attorney gets to know all about your needs, your family dynamic, and the property and assets you wish to distribute upon your death.

Many think estate planning is solely focused on finances and property, but that is not the case. A strong estate plan accomplishes many goals, from appointing guardians for minor children to planning for end-of-life decisions.

Additionally, estate planning doesn’t only include plans for your estate after your death. A good estate plan also includes plans for the possibility that you might become incapacitated. Though still living, you may not be able to make decisions for yourself, whether for a short time or permanently. In a situation like this, certain legal documents in your estate plan could help greatly.

When you’re ready to discover all of the ways an estate plan could benefit you specifically, the estate planning attorneys at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess are ready to speak with you.

Legal Documents that Make Up an Estate Plan

There are certain legal documents that, when created and executed, become part of your estate plan. While everyone’s estate plan is different, your Tacoma estate planning lawyer may recommend some combination, or all, of these documents to ensure you have a substantial estate plan.

Last Will and Testament

Wills are the most common estate planning documents.

A will, or a last will and testament, is a document that allows you, the testator, to express your final wishes for the distribution of your property and assets. It lists all of your individual property and assets along with which beneficiaries are entitled to what portion of them.

Along with property and asset distribution, wills also include:

  • Who you wish to appoint as personal representative of your estate
  • Who you wish to appoint as guardian of your minor children, if any
  • Information regarding the creation of trusts.

Wills are customizable, and the details included depend on your wants and needs.

In order for a will to be recognized by the state, it must be valid. For the creation of a valid will, you must be at least 18 and of sound mind. You are required to sign your will and also have two witnesses, who are not beneficiaries, sign the will in your presence.

A valid will can help you accomplish many of your most important goals for your estate and beneficiaries.


Trusts are the second most important part of estate plans.

A trust allows you, the trustor, to create a fiduciary relationship between your chosen trustee and your beneficiaries. When you place assets and property in a trust, you’re doing so for the future benefit of your loved ones.

There are several different types of trusts to choose from, depending on your needs. Some of the most common kinds of trusts include:

  • Living trusts (also called revocable trusts)
  • Irrevocable trusts
  • Testamentary trusts
  • Asset protection trusts
  • Special needs trusts
  • Charitable trusts.

Trusts are powerful tools in estate plans. Not only do they help protect your assets and property for the benefit of your intended beneficiaries, but they can also help avoid probate. Because your property belongs to the trust, and not to your estate, there is no need to probate, and your property goes directly to your trustee to handle distribution to your beneficiaries according to your directions.

While creating and funding trusts can seem daunting, our Tacoma estate planning lawyers can help you through the process.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving a chosen individual the right to make decisions on your behalf. There are different types of powers of attorney, including:

  • General Power of Attorney: An agent under a general power of attorney has broad authority to take any necessary actions and make decisions on your behalf. If you become incapacitated, the powers given under a general power of attorney end.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney gives the agent power to act on your behalf. It is “durable” because, even if you become incapacitated, it remains in effect.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney: An agent under a healthcare power of attorney has the right to make decisions for you, should you become incapacitated, incompetent, or unconscious.
  • Limited Power of Attorney: As the name suggests, a limited power of attorney gives your agent authority over specific matters, including selling property on your behalf or settling debts.

An estate plan may include a combination of power of attorney documents, based on your needs and desires.

Living Will

A living will is often confused with a last will and testament, but they are two separate documents with different goals.

A living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, allows you to plan ahead and make medical healthcare decisions for yourself, even if you become unable to at some point due to incapacity.

For example, in a living will, you may decide to include instructions for healthcare providers regarding life-sustaining measures, including resuscitation or ventilation.

While it can be difficult to think about, creating a living will takes the tough decisions out of your loved one’s hands. It can be particularly difficult for loved ones to make certain decisions regarding your healthcare, causing much stress and friction. Having a living will in place not only helps your family, but also ensures your desires are respected, even when you can’t express yourself.

The Benefits of Having a Strong Estate Plan

We understand that thinking about the future, including potential incapacity and your time of death, can be challenging. While working through creating an estate plan makes you think about topics you’d rather not touch upon, having a strong plan for the future can give you (and your loved ones) immeasurable peace of mind.

Having an estate plan provides several advantages for you and your beneficiaries.

An Estate Plan Provides for Your Family and Loved Ones

Having an estate plan helps ensure your family and loved ones are provided for.

Without an estate plan, your family may get less, and your intended beneficiaries may not get what you would have wanted them to have. Because the state is entitled to make decisions regarding estates with no wills or estate plans, it could mean trouble for your family and the distribution of your property and assets.

An Estate Plan Can Help Avoid Probate

One of the primary goals for creating a strong estate plan is avoiding probate, or at the very least, making probate much easier to handle.

Probate is the court-supervised process of handling your estate’s matters and formally closing out your estate. When you have a will and other estate planning documents, the probate process can be made a lot easier or, in some cases, your family may be able to bypass probate altogether.

However, if your estate must go through probate, it can take quite some time to close out your case and distribute your assets and property to your heirs.

An Estate Plan Minimizes Expenses

When your estate goes through probate without an estate plan, it could mean costly fees and a prolonged process. Having an estate plan limits the potential expenses your family would have to incur otherwise.

An Estate Plan Can Ease Stress and Eliminate Potential Conflict

One of the biggest advantages of having an estate plan is making decisions for yourself while you’re still able, therefore eliminating the need for your family to make certain decisions in the future.

When anyone loses a loved one, it’s common to be emotional and feel stressed. Combine heightened emotions and the need to make difficult decisions, and it could be a recipe for conflict.

Having an estate plan allows your family to avoid arguments and separation and, instead, come together to respect your last wishes.

An Estate Plan Helps You Feel Confident About the Future

Thinking about the future is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. When you make an estate plan you’re content with, you can feel the weight lifting off your shoulders, knowing your future is planned, your finances and assets are protected, and your family will be provided for.

Why Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess

Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess has been providing quality estate planning services for over 25 years. Our legal team has over 100 years of combined experience, allowing us to better serve our clients and tackle any legal challenges that come our way.

Our passion and commitment have earned us not only the respect of our peers in the legal community, but also our network of previous clients.

We understand the importance of having an estate plan and what it could mean for your future and that of your loved ones. No matter your desires and goals, we’re ready to work with you to establish the right estate plan that suits your needs.

Put your trust in the estate planning lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess.

Estate Planning – Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re interested in drafting an estate plan, many questions may come to mind. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding estate planning in Tacoma.

What is My “Estate?”

An “estate” is an umbrella term encompassing many different types of property you own that is subject to distribution through a will, trusts, or intestacy laws. Property includes real property, like homes or rental properties, and personal property, like bank accounts and jewelry.

Is Everyone’s Estate Plan Different?

Yes! No two individuals will have the exact same type of estate plan. Estate plans are created based on your specific life situation and ultimate goals for your estate.

What our estate planning attorneys may recommend for one client may not be right for you, or vice versa. We strive to get to know our clients as well as possible before providing suggestions for estate planning documents.

Do My Spouse and I Both Need Separate Estate Plans?

Yes, it is wise for spouses to have their own individual estate plans, including wills, living wills, and trusts.

For example, if your wife passes away, you cannot probate your will for her estate; she would need to have her own valid will. While your estate plans may mimic each other’s in some ways, you need separate documents.

What Happens When Someone Dies without a Will or Estate Plan?

When someone dies without a will or any sort of estate plan, they have died “intestate.” Because there is no will or plan for the decedent’s estate, the distribution of their property and assets relies on Washington’s intestacy laws.

The probate court handles the intestate decedent’s estate to ensure all assets and property are distributed fairly under these established laws.

Can I Change the Details of My Estate Plan?

Yes. We understand life happens and circumstances change. If you have an estate plan and need to change something in the future, discuss it with your estate planning attorney.

It’s important to note that changes must be made in specific ways, depending on the type of document you want to amend, to ensure it remains legally enforceable.

The answers to these questions may provide some assistance regarding estate planning. However, should you have additional concerns, we’d be happy to address them with you during your consultation.

Consult with a Knowledgeable Tacoma Estate Planning Attorney Today

When you’re looking for estate planning attorneys you can rely on, Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess is ready to hear from you. Contact us today at (253) 572-1000 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers in Tacoma.

Attorney Robert Dickson

Attorney Robert DicksonThe core of Rob’s legal practice is civil litigation, with an emphasis on construction, real estate, and business law. He represents a wide range of clients, from large construction companies to individual homeowners. His is a practical approach to law, which strives to balance the need for a successful legal outcome with a client’s financial goals (or constraints). Outside of his private practice, Rob serves as an adjunct professor at the Seattle University School of Law where he teaches real estate litigation. [ Attorney Bio ]

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    Attorney Thomas L. Dickson

    Thomas L. Dickson

    Tom is an experienced litigator and the founding partner of the firm. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients prevail in their real estate, construction, and business law matters.

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    Attorney Heather Burgess

    Heather Burgess

    Heather represents property owners and developers in all phases of real estate development, from pre-acquisition due diligence through local permitting and appeals.

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    Attorney Robert P. Dickson

    Robert P. Dickson

    The core of Rob’s legal practice is civil litigation, with an emphasis on construction, real estate, and business law. He represents a wide range of clients, from large construction companies to individual homeowners.

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    Attorney Daniel J. Frohlich

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    Dan’s legal practice focuses on civil litigation, real estate law, business law and probate law. He has more than 10 years of experience as an attorney serving clients throughout Western Washington.

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    Trevor A. Zandell

    Since graduating with honors from law school in 2005, Trevor has been serving the legal needs of businesses, individuals, and families across Southwest Washington.

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    Daniel E. Pizarro

    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, Daniel is active in the firm’s civil litigation department. His practice is mainly centered around real estate law, landlord-tenant law, construction law, and probate law.

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    Attorney Alexander J. Wisbey

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    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, Kelley practices in a wide range of areas, including estate planning, probate, civil litigation, and intellectual property law.

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    Cambria is an Associate with Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess in the civil litigation department, where she practices primarily real estate and probate law.

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    George Knight

    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, George is active in the firm’s civil litigation and transactional departments. His practice is mainly centered around business law, real estate law, construction law, employment law, and probate law.

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    Attorney Chris Pierce-Wright

    Chris Pierce-Wright

    Chris comes to Phillips Burgess Tacoma from Seattle, where he served as an associate attorney focused on insurance litigation with Wilson Smith Cochran Dickerson.

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    Jennifer is an associate attorney at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess where her current practice focuses on real estate law, contract and commercial disputes, and business law.

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    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, Katherine practices in a range of areas, including real estate, construction, business, and civil litigation.

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    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, PLLC, Kenny is active in the firm’s civil litigation and transactional departments. Prior to working at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, Kenny was an in-house attorney for a Fortune 100 company.

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    Brian Buske

    Following his graduation from Lewis & Clark Law School, Brian garnered valuable client experience working on international compliance and intellectual property issues.

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    As an associate at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess, Kyla practices in a range of areas, including real estate, land use, and civil litigation.

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    Attorney Matt Wand

    Matt Wand

    Matt was born and raised in East Multnomah County in the Gresham area where he lives and has raised his family. His wife of more than twenty-five years is Anne Wand and they have three children together.

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    I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate this firm! These guys helped me through one of the most challenging legal situations I’ve faced in my life. Their skill and expertise literally saved my business. I’ve dealt with other counsel in the past but the Dickson firm was by far the most competent and tactful counsel I’ve ever received. I would recommend this group to anyone!

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