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Tacoma Probate Lawyer

Our Probate Attorneys Help During Difficult Times

When someone in Tacoma passes away, probate is the legal process to distribute the estate’s assets properly. When you secure legal help from our Tacoma probate lawyers, you can trust that we have the heirs’ and the personal representatives’ best interests in mind.

Client Testimonial

“I could not recommend Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess more. They provided 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, 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 workday 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)

Why Choose Our Team of Probate Attorneys in Tacoma

We Have The Skills And Experience To Serve Your Probate Needs

probate paperwork on desk under gavel

Our probate practice group, led by Daniel J. Frohlich, is one of Tacoma’s probate law finest. If you need high-quality, cost-effective service, and innovative legal solutions, count on us.

Our approach to handling complicated and unpredictable probate matters sets Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess apart from others. Our team has detailed knowledge of Washington laws related to probate.

We are confident in our depth of knowledge and years of experience to help handle your case with skill, attention, and detail. Learn what our clients say about how we’ve helped them.

If you want to work with a Tacoma probate attorney, get in contact with Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess to set up a consultation.

We can be reached by phone at (253) 572-1000.

How We Can Serve Your Probate Needs

Our Tacoma Probate Law Attorneys Help Throughout The Probate Process


Our experienced probate lawyers in Tacoma can assist you and your family in many different ways, including:

  • Before you pass away, legal documents can be created and existing ones changed to help ensure that the process goes smoothly. We can regularly review your estate plan and advise on valuable changes and additions.
  • We will assist in the probate process to ensure all requirements are met, and procedures are followed, which will limit delays or complications.
  • Our seasoned attorneys are available to advise executors throughout the administration of an estate in probate.
  • We vigorously represent the rights and interests of beneficiaries of a will or trust who wish to contest a will or challenge the actions of an executor or trustee.

Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess can help you protect your property and your family members, so call us today at 253-572-1000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a court process required to prove the authenticity and validity of a deceased person’s will and carry out the intentions in the will. The process can be complicated, time-consuming, and costly, especially if the deceased person did not implement any other estate planning devices.

The probate court must determine whether a will is valid and must address any objections to the validity of the terms of the will by any potential beneficiaries or heirs. Such arguments over terms of a will may turn into lengthy legal battles, and you always want to ensure your rights are protected.

Representation from an experienced probate attorney in Tacoma is imperative to save time, money, and frustration, as in any other court proceeding.

Our Tacoma Probate Lawyers Assist with Estate Administration

Even if a will is found to be valid, administering the estate in accordance with the terms of the will is a complicated task.

The will should name an executor who is responsible for estate administration, which may include:

  • Filing the will with the probate court
  • Locating and notifying beneficiaries
  • Locating the deceased’s assets and managing them throughout the process
  • Opening a bank account for the estate for any stock dividends or other payments that may come in during probate
  • Continuing to pay all bills such as mortgages and homeowner’s insurance until the property is transferred
  • Filing and paying income taxes for the year the individual died
  • Notifying creditors of the death and probate
  • Paying debts out of the estate
  • Distributing all real estate, assets, and personal property to the proper beneficiaries
  • Requesting the probate court to formally close the estate.

Estate administration is complicated, and the assistance of a skilled attorney is invaluable for the executor throughout this process.

Who May Serve as A Personal Representative in The Probate Process?

The appointment of a personal representative (the “executor/executrix”) is an important first step in the probate process. This individual, commonly working with a probate law attorney, has significant influence and authority over the decedent’s estate.

They’re entrusted with acting on behalf of a deceased individual, ostensibly for the benefit of creditors and third-party heirs (often the decedent’s children and family members). Courts expect the job will be done effectively and in good faith.

Naming someone as the executor of the estate doesn’t mean that he or she will serve as personal representative. For instance, the person may die before the decedent or may decide not to get involved.

Who Cannot Serve as A Personal Representative?

If you might serve as the personal representative to an estate, there are considerations that may disqualify you. Our probate attorneys in Tacoma will be glad to talk through your unique situation if you are unsure whether you qualify.

There are two general disqualifications:

  • Inherent
  • Innocent.

Inherent Disqualification

There are many individuals and legal entities who can’t legally serve as a personal representative, according to RCW 11.36.010:

  • Corporations: A company cannot serve as a personal representative, except companies designed for such responsibilities. Trust companies, national banks, and professional service corporations (i.e., law firms) can serve as personal representatives.
  • Minors: An individual who has not reached the age of majority (18 years old or older) may not be named personal representative.
  • Persons lacking legal capacity (unsound mind): This may be the result of advanced age or physical or mental illness.
  • Felons: Someone convicted of a felony in the past, or while acting as a personal representative, is disqualified from the role.
  • Misdemeanants of crimes regarding “moral turpitude”: These are crimes related to a breach of an affirmative, fiduciary obligation and connected to dishonesty. Though it may not carry the same possible sentence as a felony, the crime may show that someone shouldn’t be trusted with the access and control over an individual’s estate.
  • Nonresidents: If they do not have a qualified resident agent.

In addition, under RCW 11.28.160, a superior court judge can remove and replace any personal representative “for any cause deemed sufficient.” Examples include:

  • A personal representative was disqualified when it was found he fraudulently removed a decedent’s will from a safe deposit box and hid it.
  • A family member was disqualified due to his history of hiding property to avoid creditors.

Innocent Disqualification

There are also “innocent” disqualifications, which are:

  • Serious illness or death
  • Resignation
  • If the estate started without a will but is later found.

Removal of A Personal Representative During Probate Due to Poor Conduct

A personal representative can be removed from the role because they failed to execute the trust faithfully and breached their fiduciary duty.

RCW 11.28.250 lists reasons why a personal representative may be removed:

  • Actual or probable waste, embezzlement, or mismanagement of the estate
  • Fraud upon the estate
  • Incompetence
  • Permanent removal from Washington
  • Neglect
  • Any other just cause.

To qualify for removal, the personal representative must be more than annoying, slow, or inefficient. A probate attorney would have to show actual or probable damage to the relevant parties. Family disagreements or dislikes are also usually insufficient.

“Any other just cause” can cover signs of dishonesty when dealing with estate assets. If an estate asset is concealed, it won’t be used to pay creditors or be distributed to beneficiaries, which makes it possible that the personal representative may plan on stealing it.

Talk to our probate lawyer in Tacoma if you have concerns about the estate’s personal representative. If you’re ready to begin a consultation with a Tacoma probate lawyer, you can reach Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess by contacting us online or by phone at (253) 572-1000.

Frequently Asked Questions for A Tacoma Probate Lawyer

Probate law is a complicated thing to try to understand, which is why we’ve gathered some frequently asked questions from people who have worked with our Tacoma probate lawyers in the past.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

There are multiple costs that come associated with probate. For example, smaller costs, like the Superior Court filing fee ($200) or the publication of the Probate Notice to Creditors (approx. $100). Additional fees are incurred, however, as you engage in certain expenses.

For example, you do not need to hire a lawyer, accountant, or appraiser, but the benefit of doing so is a lot less of a headache and a lot more expertise. On top of this is the commission fee for the personal representative, which is a percentage of the estate’s value.

What are the Advantages of Probate?

Probate is most valuable in certain circumstances, particularly ones that may be full of unresolved disputes. One of the key benefits of doing probate is the presence of a neutral, third-party participant in the process.

This participant will supervise the process and ensure that everything happening is going according to the law. If there are disputes, whether they be major or minor, it’s nice being able to count on this third party to resolve them according to the law.

Plus, if the process could take longer than half a year or more, it’s nice to have someone involved to facilitate the process. The last thing you want is a long, drawn-out, and confusing dispute.

What are the Disadvantages of Probate?

Simply put, not all estates are going to need to undergo probate. Thus, you won’t have to have a third-party involved, and you won’t need the services of a Tacoma probate attorney either. There may also be no issues with disputes among heirs, which certainly simplifies things.

Ultimately, the process just isn’t worth going through. Another benefit of skipping the probate process is that it is a public process. As a result, the heirs and beneficiaries may wish to avoid it just to keep their affairs private.

Is it Possible to Appeal Being Removed as Personal Representative?

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If you were successfully removed as personal representative, but dispute details regarding why you were removed, you may be able to have this decision appealed. After the decision is made, you are able to file an appeal of the decision immediately.

We can help you not only handle all of the complex aspects of the appeal but also help you understand whether there is merit to filing an appeal in the first place.

For an appeal to be reasonably successful, you need to demonstrate either that an error of law was committed or that a wrongdoing was committed.

For example, the court order could have been made as a result of a legal misunderstanding, or the judge knew one of the people seeking removal, which may suggest bias.

If you’re ready to talk to a Tacoma probate lawyer, be sure to contact us online or by phone at (253) 572-1000. We will help get things sorted out for you as cleanly and quickly as possible.

Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess – Tacoma Office

1200 E D St, Tacoma, WA 98421
P: (206) 621-1110