I. FIDUCIARY REPRESENTATION:
We represent various professional and private fiduciaries, including trustees, guardians, attorneys-in-fact and personal representatives, in the administration of their duties. While our attorneys have extensive experience in representing all types of fiduciaries, we have a particular emphasis in the administration of special needs trusts and in assisting fiduciaries to address the specific issues related individuals with special needs.
FIDUCIARY ADMINISTRATION. We represent and advise professional and individual fiduciaries, including trustees, guardians, attorneys-in-fact and personal representatives, in the administration of their duties. Our attorneys provide general advice and guidance to fiduciaries on their duties as well as advice on specific issues which may arise. While our attorneys have extensive experience in representing all types of fiduciaries, our practice emphasizes administration of special needs trusts, coordination with public benefits, and addressing specific issues related to individuals with special needs.
REPORTS & ACCOUNTINGS. We represent fiduciaries in the preparation of reports and accountings to be provided to beneficiaries, other parties and/or a court. This representation frequently involves compliance with the duty to keep informed, statutory reporting requirements, and rules requiring court supervision. Our attorneys’ extensive experience presenting reports and accountings to courts throughout Washington State allows us to anticipate and proactively address issues which may arise in court review of the reports and accountings.
TRUST AND ESTATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION ACT. We help fiduciaries address issues which arise in the administration of trusts, powers of attorney or probates using the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA”). TEDRA can be used to resolve issues which were not anticipated or addressed properly under the governing document through private agreements or court proceedings.
COURT PROCEEDINGS. Fiduciaries, such as trustees, guardians, attorneys-in-fact and personal representatives, occasionally face issues which require court proceedings for resolution. Our attorneys have broad experience in court proceedings such as obtaining court approval of a fiduciary’s action, addressing allegations of misconduct or breach of trust, or facilitating early termination or modification of fiduciary relationships. These proceedings may be uncontested or contested depending on the nature of the action.
MODIFICATION OF EXISTING TRUSTS. Fiduciaries may find that an existing trust agreement or other document does not adequately address issues arising in the administration of their duties. We assist fiduciaries in modifying existing trusts to resolve these issues. We are called upon to modify trusts in numerous contexts. We frequently revise trusts to comply with federal and state laws allowing beneficiaries to qualify for means-tested public benefits such Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Medicaid.
II. GUARDIANSHIP AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES:
Guardianship is a court process in which a guardian is appointed for an individual who cannot manage his or her personal or financial affairs. A guardianship is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual. Options range from a Full Guardianship of the Person and Estate where broad authority is granted to the Guardian, to a Limited Guardianship of the Person or Estate where only specific authorities are granted to the Guardian. The court evaluates whether a less restrictive alternative to guardianship exists based on the “best interests” of the individual. Examples of less restrictive alternative to guardianship include a financial and/or medical power of attorney, the appointment of a representative payee to receive and manage government benefits or the creation of a trust with specialized provisions to protect the individual. We represent individuals seeking guardianships to protect family members or others, individuals with an interest in a guardianship proceeding initiated by another person, and individuals subject to a proposed guardianship. When representing any client in the establishment of a guardianship, we discuss all available options within the guardianship proceedings as well as the less restrictive alternatives to guardianship to determine how best to meet the individual’s needs.
A Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) is appointed in all new guardianship proceedings to investigate and recommend whether a guardian is necessary and, if so, the extent and type of the Guardianship. The GAL is required to file a report to the court with his or her recommendations.
Once a guardianship has been established, the guardian must file regular reports to the court on all financial activity in the guardianship estate and on the status of the person who is the subject of the guardianship. These reports must be presented to the Court for approval. We encourage our clients to prepare, file and present these reports on their own if they are comfortable doing so; however, our office regularly represents clients in preparing, filing and/or presenting these reports.
III. LITIGATION AND SETTLEMENT PLANNING:
Our office is nationally recognized in the area of litigation and settlement planning for personal injury claims, worker’s compensation claims, and other civil claims. We consult with attorneys who represent both plaintiffs and defendants and their clients regarding all aspects of litigation and settlement planning. This planning may include any or all of the services listed below.
PLAINTIFF BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY. Injured Plaintiffs may be eligible for local, state and/or federal public benefit programs that are necessary to provide the plaintiff with care and support during and after the litigation process. Those benefits include but are not limited to Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability (SSD), Special Education Services, Local Medicaid Waiver Programs, Developmental Disabilities Programs, HUD Programs, Vocational Rehabilitation and other state and federal programs. Planning and coordination may be necessary to avoid negative impacts on eligibility for such benefits by outright receipt of settlement or judgment proceeds. Our services may include special education and benefit advocacy and the development of post-settlement or judgment documents to preserve eligibility.
PLAINTIFF CAPACITY AND CLIENT MANAGEMENT. An injured plaintiff may lack capacity because he/she is a minor or has cognitive impairments. As a result, a litigation guardian ad litem, next friend, settlement guardian ad litem, guardian, conservator and/or other fiduciary may be needed to represent the plaintiff’s interests in the litigation or settlement. We frequently assist in putting the appropriate representative in place for the plaintiff. Several of our attorneys are also qualified to serve as the plaintiff’s representative in the appropriate circumstances.
SUBROGATION/LIEN RESOLUTION. Reimbursement may be required from the proceeds of litigation or settlements for injury-related expenses paid on behalf of the injured person. Agencies requiring reimbursement may include Medicaid, Medicare, private health insurance companies through ERISA claims, liens and contractual subrogation provisions, and other organizations or government entities such as Workman’s Compensation and Crime Victims Compensation. Review and negotiation of such claims should take place before payment of the claim. We frequently assist in this process to maximize the proceeds available to the plaintiff.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF LITIGATION OR SETTLEMENT PROCEEDS; TRUSTS. Various devices are available, and in many circumstances required, for the financial management of litigation and settlement proceeds. Such devices include qualifying settlement funds (pursuant to 26 USC §468b), special needs trusts, trusts for minors, asset protection trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, blocked accounts, and Medicare set asides. Our services include the development and review of implementation of such devices to fit the specific needs of the Plaintiff.
SETTLEMENT AND LITIGATION CONSULTATION. Our office will frequently consult with other attorneys to evaluate settlement offers, conduct verdict research, develop settlement materials, and/or assist in negotiating and mediating claims.
EXPERT WITNESS. In the appropriate circumstances, we may serve as an expert witness within our areas of practice.