Betts Patterson Mines

Estate Planning, Estate Tax Planning & Probate

Our Estate planning attorneys work daily with the unique planning opportunities of each individual client considering age, health, marital status, children, step-children, in-laws, descendants, parents, significant others, charities, real estate, farms and ranches, securities, insurance, businesses, investments, retirement, liabilities, and contingent and possible liabilities in the context of the current uncertainty as to the estate tax laws and the instability of relevant state laws.  Estate and trust administration includes advice to executors and trustees in quickly and efficiently dealing with and planning for property disclaimers, valuations, sales, taxation, contaminated property and prompt transfers and distributions to beneficiaries or trusts.  Our clients often face difficult business succession issues, and we have extensive experience in resolving those issues for partnerships, S and C corporations, and limited liability companies. 

Some of the techniques we use in drawing up estate plans include: gifts, undivided interests in real property, family limited liability companies or partnerships, private annuities, retirement plan and IRA benefits, and generation skipping trusts, insurance, qualified personal residence trusts and grantor retained annuity trusts as well as private charitable foundations. In creating gift and estate plans for each unique circumstance, we use a variety of legal documents such as:

  • Wills and revocable trusts with estate tax exemption trusts, marital deduction trusts, generation skipping trusts all designed to deal with the disparate Washington and federal taxes and/or differences among family members and generations
  • Living or revocable trusts to provide privacy
  • Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney to avoid the specter of guardianships
  • Life insurance trusts (sometimes with so-called “Crummey” clauses) to protect proceeds from extra taxation
  • Medicaid qualifying trusts
  • Qualified personal residence trusts
  • Children or grandchildren trusts 
  • Business entities
  • Private Foundations

Washington law is very flexible.  For instance, community property agreements may be used to change the character of separate or community property to all but eliminate probate attorney fees.

Administration of Estates and Trusts

We also assist with the administration of estates and trusts for clients and advise individuals and entities who act as trustees or executors in the following matters:

  • Transfer of the decedent’s property including clearing title to real property and stocks, preparing tax returns, and disclaimers for tax and family benefits
  • Business succession
  • Real properties
  • Administration in other jurisdictions
  • Contaminated properties including mitigation, voluntary cleanup, sale and indemnification
  • Valuations of many types of assets such as businesses and real property
  • Estate and gift tax issues, attendant tax planning and controversy
  • Will and trust contests
  • Children from prior marriages
  • Foreign property ownerships
  • Non-citizen estate issues
  • Probate fees and challenges to the inappropriate administration of estates and trusts by individuals and law firms
  • Creditors’ claims
  • Guardianships
  • Dispute resolution


Unfortunately, litigation can arise in the estate context with creditor claims, disputes as to fiduciary responsibility, will and trust interpretation, undue influence and incapacity in formation of Wills and Trusts, Will Agreements and de facto Will Agreements, caregiver and other outside influences on elderly or ill family members, rights of parties under joint accounts with right of survivorship as well as under Powers of Attorney.  Tax disputes sometimes arise over lifetime transfers, valuations and technical property issues.

We are experienced in handling all manners of problems related to estate and trust disputes, including in the following areas:

  • Will and Trust Contests
  • Creditor Claims
  • Guardianships (uncontested)
  • TEDRA issues (Trust Estate Dispute Resolution Act – RCW11.96A et. seq.)
  • Mediation and Arbitration

Representative Cases

  • Designed substantial estate to provide for generation skipping trusts for some family members and prompt distributions to others;
  • Designed substantial gifting plans for current high exemptions;
  • Created private foundations.
  • Caused termination of improvidently court created long term trusts;
  • Designed many Tax Exemption Trust and Marital Trust estate plans within Wills and Trusts to deal with unpredictable tax laws;
  • Designed estate plans for exchange of substantial IRA accounts and brokerage accounts to avoid extra income taxation;
  • Reversed an IRS claim for 7 figures to a refund of high 6 figures;
  • Designed a substantial tax saving guardianship estate plan for wealthy but incapacitated adults with no prior estate plan;
  • Designed estate plans for transfers at death with no estate taxes and almost no attorney’s fees;
  • Worked on taxation of retirement benefits;
  • Served as guardian for clients;
  • Litigated attorney fee disputes;
  • Litigated substantial creditor’s claims from family business against decedent’s estate;
  • Dealt with contamination issues in properties held by decedents and their business entities.