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Tacoma Wills Lawyer

Protect Your Loved Ones with a Will

Having a will is essential to planning your estate, and not having one can mean major problems for your loved ones. The purpose of your will is to set out your instructions that ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of when you are gone.

But more than just spelling out your final wishes and determining what should be done with your assets, a properly drawn-up will ensures that your family will be protected and lessen the chances of disputes that may arise that can ruin relationships and even lead to litigation.

Despite the importance of having a will, too many people put off drafting this vital document. Creating a will and planning your estate now, when you are of sound mind and can do so, can ensure that your loved ones will be not only provided for after you are gone and that your estate and finances will be handled the way you want them to be.

Planning your estate can seem overwhelming, and trying to do it yourself can lead to costly problems for your family, but the Tacoma wills and estate planning lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess are here to help. Our experienced attorneys handle a wide range of estate planning matters, providing personalized service based on your needs.

We earn the trust of our clients every day by educating them about the law, informing them about their options, creating strategies that work, executing legal documents properly, making sure our clients’ desires are put into action, and fighting to protect their interests should a will become contested.

Our probate lawyers will help you create a will and handle your estate effectively, efficiently, and professionally while providing excellent, personal service. Call us today at (253) 572-1000 for a consultation to discuss your individual needs.

How Our Wills Attorney Can Help

Why Choose Us?

There are many attorneys out there, and it is important to find one that has the compassion, knowledge, and skills to handle your will and other complex estate issues. Here are some reasons why we believe you should choose our wills and estate planning:

  • We are experienced. Founding attorney Thomas L Dickson has been helping clients for over 30 years. Attorneys Robert Dickson and Daniel Frohlich concentrate their practice on civil litigation and are fully equipped to handle all your wills and estate planning needs.
  • We are recognized in our field. Attorney Robert Dickson has won the Distinguished Lawyer award from Expert Network.
  • We have helped many satisfied clients with their legal issues, and you can read their testimonials to prove it.
  • We are conveniently located, with offices in both Seattle and Tacoma.
  • We understand what you are going through and how difficult it is to deal with sensitive family conflicts and financial issues.  We are available to you 24/7 for emergencies.

You can count on our legal team for advice and guidance with all your wills, estate planning, and litigation issues.

How Our Tacoma Wills Attorney Works for You

Everyone who works at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess — lawyers and support staff — shares our commitment to our clients. When you retain our legal team, we will:

  • Meet with you to discuss your individual estate situation and explore the best ways to handle your will and estate planning.
  • Determine what documents you need in addition to a will, and make sure they are all drafted and executed.
  • Investigate the circumstances around the formation of a contested will to determine if it was properly executed and whether it can be challenged.
  • Handle all necessary paperwork, court filings, and appearances in a timely manner and in accordance with Washington state law.
  • If a will is challenged, we will aggressively negotiate with attorneys for the opposition for a fair resolution.
  • Prepare you for all hearings and court appearances, and prevent you from saying or doing anything that would hurt your case.
  • Take your case to court to defend your rights, if necessary.

Call out Tacoma wills lawyers today at (253) 572-1000 to talk to an attorney and explore your options.

Tacoma Will Attorneys Explain Will Requirements

A will is a legal document stating how your property will be distributed after your death. Your will spells out your final wishes as to what should be done with your assets, and it can also make special provisions to ensure your family will be taken care of.

The person making the will is the testator, and the heirs who receive assets under a will are known as beneficiaries. A will lets you choose the estate’s executor, the person responsible for carrying out your wishes as stated in the will. It allows you to appoint a personal guardian to care for your minor children.

Having a will is an essential part of planning an estate, and you want to make sure all bases are covered to prevent major problems for your loved ones.  Aspects of your estate that should be covered in your will are all the assets and property that you own or control, including:

  • Personal property, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, cash, furniture, jewelry, and collectibles
  • Real property and the things attached to it, such as land, houses, and buildings
  • Businesses and business interests, such as accounts receivable, inventory, tools, and equipment
  • Life insurance, pension benefits, IRAs, and annuities
  • All claims you have that others owe you
  • Debts you owe to others.

What Constitutes an Estate?

Your estate is considered to be all the assets and property that you own or control, including:

  • Personal property, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, cash, furniture, jewelry, and collectibles
  • Real property and the things attached to it, such as land, houses, and buildings
  • Businesses and business interests, such as accounts receivable, inventory, tools, and equipment
  • Life insurance, pension benefits, IRAs, and annuities
  • All claims you have that others owe you
  • Debts you owe to others.

If you die without a will, it is called dying intestate, and your estate will be distributed according to Washington statutes (RCW 11.04.015). This is a complicated formula based on whether property is considered to be community property or separate property.

With some exceptions, community property is generally considered to be property acquired while you were married, and separate property is the property you acquired before marriage. Gifts and inheritances are given to one spouse, even if during the marriage, are classified as separate property.

How property is distributed under Washington law depends on how many of your close family members survive you and the closeness of their relationship to you. Those in the same degree of kinship divide their shares equally, and in rare situations, if you die without a will and do not have any family, your property will go to Washington state.

Many individuals have problems with certain family members and do not want them to inherit their property. If you do not want your estate divided according to intestate succession, make sure you have a will that states your desires.

Assets Not Affected by Wills

Some assets are distributed automatically, and not affected by a will. These include assets for which you have named beneficiaries or assets that you co-own with someone else who is still living. These assets will go to your named beneficiaries or surviving co-owners.

Assets that are not affected by a will include the following:

  • Living trusts: If you have established a living trust, assets that are part of the trust are distributed according to the terms of the trust.
  • Life insurance proceeds: Whomever you designated as a beneficiary of the policy will get the money from your life insurance.
  • Retirement plans: Plans in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement accounts also have a designated beneficiary who will receive these assets.
  • Payable on death accounts: Bank accounts and some securities and brokerage accounts have designated beneficiaries who will receive the assets upon the account holder’s death.
  • Property owned with someone else in a joint tenancy.

In general, you may only leave your heirs assets in your will that are in your name at the time of your death. For example, if property such as a home or bank account is owned jointly or considered community property with the right of survivorship, you cannot leave it in your will.

Tacoma, WA, Wills Lawyers Deal With Will Disputes

If your will is properly drawn up, it probably will not be contested, thus preventing bad feelings and litigation. However, there are situations when someone who has a valid interest in the will feels the will is not valid, that person can bring a will contest that challenges the validity of the will in question and seeks to have whatever is invalid portion set aside

A will generally can only be challenged in certain circumstances. These are:

  • Lack of competency. Wills may be challenged if the testator was incompetent at the time of the will signing. For the will to be valid, the testator must be mentally competent and understand the nature of the will, the “nature and extent” of their property, who their beneficiaries are, and their relationships with them.
  • There was undue influence.  Undue influence occurs when another party pressures the testator to make or sign a will that benefits that party, and if there was a fraud, duress, or any other illegal activity when creating the will. If undue influence is proven, even for only a part of the will, the entire will becomes invalid, and the court must look to earlier wills or proceed through probate with no will.
  • When there is found to be a competing version of the will
  • When the will was made illegally or contains technical faults.
  • When the will was not properly executed. The will must contain required statutory components – being executed in writing, signed by the testator, and properly witnessed, or it may be found to be invalid.

If you are making a will, our will attorneys in Tacoma will make sure everything is done correctly to prevent challenges.  If you wish to challenge a will, we will examine your situation and determine if violations occurred that would render a will or part of it invalid.

Our Tacoma Will Lawyers Answer Your Questions

When planning your estate, you are bound to have questions and concerns.  The best way to have them answered is at your consultation, but to get started, here are some answers to questions our attorneys are often asked:

What are the requirements for a valid Washington will?

In Washington, the will must be:

  • In writing
  • Signed by the testator (or by another at the testator’s direction and in the presence of the testator)
  • Signed in the presence of two competent witnesses
  • The witnesses must either sign the will or a notarized affidavit swearing that the will belongs to the testator (RCW11.12.020).

What legal documents do I need besides a will?

Basic essential documents include:

  • Trust: In addition to a will, trusts are particularly useful for providing support for a special need child, minimizing taxes, or protecting assets from creditors.
  • Living will:A living will, or advance care directive, states the kind of medical care you want if you are terminally ill, such as not wanting to be kept alive on life-support systems.
  • A Durable power of attorney for finances:A financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • Health care durable power of attorney:A durable power of attorney for health care, lets you name someone who makes health care decisions for you if you are alive but unable to make decisions for yourself.
  • HIPAA authorization: This is a release document that allows people you name to access your medical records and communicate with doctors and nurses if you are ill.

When is probate needed in Washington State?

Probate is a court-supervised legal process that may be required after someone dies to determine what happens with the deceased person’s property. Washington State law does not require probate in most circumstances, but it is often advantageous to use it. To make sure everything is distributed correctly. Our Tacoma probate lawyer can help with any situations where probate is necessary.

How long do I have to contest a Will in Washington State?

There is a statute of limitations for contesting wills in Washington state. According to the law (RCW 11.24.010), once a will has been admitted to probate, challenges must be filed before four months after the date the Court admits it to probate.

Do I need an attorney if a will is contested?

If a will is being contested, you should have an attorney to represent your interests and attempt to find legal solutions that are respectful and amicable. Conflicts between family members over estates can create rifts that are never healed.

When you have our Tacoma will attorneys working for you, we will always be available to answer your questions and address your concerns.

Get Help from Our Tacoma Will Attorney

Proper estate planning that includes a will provides the peace of mind that comes with knowing your family is protected. If you want to make sure your wishes are carried out after you are gone, the Tacoma will lawyers at Dickson Frohlich Phillips Burgess are here to help you and your family on a wide range of estate planning and probate matter.

When our probate lawyers perform estate planning, we make sure legal papers are valid and help prevent challenges. Call us today at (253) 572-1000 for a consultation.