Welcome to the Probate, Trust, and Wills Department for the Law Office of Stephen F. Frost.
I have over 37 years combined legal experience and devote about 25% of my practice to probate matters. During this period of time, I have helped many Washingtonians find solutions to their probate, trust, and will legal needs.
CALL ME FOR A FREE 15-MINUTE PHONE CONSULTATION AT (425)451-2900
I can help you with the following:
◾Explaining the Legal Process After a Relative Has Passed On
◾Assisting with the Filing of a Will
◾Assist with Protecting Assets for Decedent’s Heirs/Beneficiaries
◾Formal Probate Administration
◾Summary Probate Administration
◾Postmortem Estate Planning
◾Representation of Personal Representatives
◾Appointment of a Special Administrator
When a person dies, the probate process governs the transfer of his or her assets to heirs or beneficiaries. Probate provides a system for the assembly and inventory of property, the identification of heirs and beneficiaries, the notification of creditors and the eventual distribution of assets.
During the probate process, any valid debts and taxes are paid, and any disputes between competing interests are resolved. Estates may be probated, whether or not the decedent left a last will and testament.
If you are a personal representative who anticipates conflicts over the terms of a will or the distribution of assets, it can be helpful to work with an attorney who can handle the dispute resolution aspects of the estate as well as the probate and administrative duties.
The Washington probate process is neither especially complex nor expensive, but it helps to work with lawyers who can advise you of your duties.
My extensive probate litigation experience can also protect you and the estate when disagreements arise concerning the terms of the will, the ownership of a particular asset, or a creditor's claim.
Trial Attorneys Focused on Estate Litigation
Twenty five percent of my practice is concentrated on the resolution of disputes involving wills, intestate estates (estates without wills) and other probate matters. From my office in Bellevue, I represent heirs, beneficiaries, personal representatives and others in estate probates and disputes throughout the Puget Sound region. Estate litigation refers to the range of conflicts that can arise when people disagree about their rights in a deceased person's property, or in the deceased person's estate. Examples of the kinds of cases I have handled include:
◾Disputes as to the validity of a will
◾Disputes about the terms of a will
◾Disputes concerning the competence of the person who made the will
◾Intestate succession disputes when there is no will
◾Disagreements concerning the status of a person as an heir or beneficiary
◾Claims of a surviving spouse or child who is not provided for in a will
◾Questions as to the correct ownership of an asset that was transferred before death
◾Breach of fiduciary duty claims against an executor or administrator of the estate
◾Third-party claims against estates, such as claims by creditors
Since the year 2000, Washington will contests and other probate disputes have been governed by the provisions of TEDRA — the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act. Unlike other types of civil litigation, this statute puts estate litigation on an expedited path toward resolution.
Protecting Your Interests in Will Contests
If you need legal advice about your rights under a will in probate, or if you are the executor responsible for defending the terms of a will against a legal challenge, it can be beneficial to work with a lawyer whose practice focuses on trust and estate litigation.
I have represented both heirs and beneficiaries seeking to challenge the validity of a will, as well as executors who are legally bound to defend the will.
Strictly speaking, a will contest is a lawsuit over the validity of a last will and testament. Is the instrument in probate genuine? Did the deceased have the legal capacity to execute a valid will, or was he or she legally incompetent, under the undue influence of another, or under an insane delusion?
No matter which side of a potential will contest you might be on, you should be aware that these actions present special challenges, especially for the side seeking the invalidation of the will.
A will contest must be commenced within four months of the beginning of probate. Additionally, the party seeking invalidation of the will carries a heavy burden of proof. A party seeking to invalidate a will must present clear, cogent and convincing evidence in order to invalidate the will. This is a more difficult standard of proof to meet than the standard that applies in most civil actions.
My previous experience means that I can evaluate your claim or defense quickly and reliably. I can provide recommendations of how to proceed given your specific situation. I would be happy to provide you with a free introductory telephone consultation or in-person meeting concerning your legal issues; please give me a call at (425) 451-2900.