The following capsule summaries are intended to give a general overview of the types of cases listed. They are not intended to be comprehensive. Each case is unique and requires careful individual analysis of the facts presented and the applicable law.
Tolman Clucas PLLC takes pride in practicing law in the following areas:
Claims arise when a person is injured as a result of the negligence of another. Although a personal injury case can arise in a myriad of factual circumstances, the most common example is a motor vehicle collision. There are two parts to a personal injury claim: liability and damages. Liability involves determination as to who was at fault. Damages are the determination of the amount of loss the non-negligent person incurred as the result of the other’s negligence. Elements of damages include wage loss and medical bills as well as compensation for disfigurement and pain and suffering. This type of case warrants attorney involvement at the earliest time so that evidence can be preserved and maximum recovery facilitated. Jeff Tolman has over 35 years experience in helping injured persons and would be pleased to assist you should you have the misfortune to suffer such a difficulty.
Estate Planning describes the process of drafting documents which help direct property distribution, business and medical decisions upon a person’s disability, incompetence or death. Documents commonly involved include a Medical Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Directive to Physicians (Living Will), a Last Will and Testament and, where appropriate, a Community Property Agreement.
Probate is the legal process by which a decedent’s estate is settled. Sometimes no court is involved depending on the size of the estate and estate planning documents in existence. If a person passes away without having executed estate planning documents, the law of intestacy applies. Intestacy establishes a presumptive distribution scheme for a decedent’s estate. That is, the law assumes that a person who dies would want their spouse and/or children to inherit their estate. If they have a valid Last Will and Testament, that document will control the distribution of property and the intestate presumptions won’t apply. In a typical probate, a Personal Representative is appointed who has broad powers to run the estate consistent with the decedent’s Will or the laws of Intestacy. Creditors have a four month period after the first notice is published to make claims against the estate. There is presently no State or Federal inheritance tax for property passing to a surviving spouse. For other heirs, however, state inheritance tax begins at $2,100,000 and federal tax at $5,200,000. After creditor’s claims are resolved and any taxes due are paid, the Personal Representative distributes the estate to the heirs. Personal Representative’s fees and attorney’s fees must either be approved by all heirs or by the court. Compared to other states, Washington has a quick, smooth and relatively inexpensive estate settlement scheme. Jeff Tolman has extensive experience with estates of all sizes and will be happy to assist you with their sensitive proceedings.
The real estate related legal services offered by Tolman Clucas, among others, include drafting and reviewing Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreements (REPSA), drafting water and road maintenance agreements, drafting promissory notes and deeds of trust and consulting with buyers and sellers of homes or other real estate. Please contact Jeff Tolman regarding real estate issues.
Family Law encompasses the following issues:
In Washington, divorce is referred to as “dissolution of marriage.” This is a “no-fault” proceeding. Neither party is required, or allowed, to prove that the other party was at “fault“ in order for the dissolution to be granted or for spousal maintenance to be awarded or property divided. Grounds for dissolution of marriage require only that one party believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no chance of reconciliation. Fault is only potentially relevant where parenting plan issues are before the court. Please contact Matt Clucas regarding family law issues.
An uncontested dissolution occurs when both parties have agreed on all issues. When the parties are unable to agree on one or more issues, the case is, at least technically, a contested dissolution and, if settlement is not reached between the parties, a judge will ultimately make a ruling on unresolved questions. The types of issues at stake in a dissolution may include parenting plan questions, child support, property and debt division and, where appropriate, spousal maintenance and payment of attorney fees.
Dissolution of marriage is one of the most devastating events that can befall a family. Beyond the emotional pain, it can be legally complex. It is important that potential litigants contact an experienced attorney who can help with the process. The old adage “know your rights“ applies here with some force. Not knowing those rights can prove costly and examples abound of cases in which people have forfeited assets or otherwise suffered because they did not have solid legal advice.
In Washington, a possible alternative to marital dissolution is a legal separation. Couples sometimes choose legal separation instead of dissolution for, among others, religious reasons or to maintain health insurance coverage for an ailing spouse. A legal separation case addresses the same issues as a marital dissolution case does. At the end of the case the parties remain married entry of, however. A legal separation decree may be converted to a decree of dissolution by either party, after a minimum of six (6) months since the decree of legal separation.
Washington is one of eleven “community property” states. Community property is generally defined to include all assets purchased, earned or acquired during a marriage except property received as a gift or an inheritance or purchased with separate property. Both parties have a presumptively equal ownership interest in community property, even if purchased with the earnings of only one spouse, but in appropriate circumstances, the Court may deviate from the 50/50 presumption. When dividing community property, the court considers a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, age and condition of health of the parties, earnings history and prospects, the existence or non-existence of separate property and any other relevant factors.
Separate property is generally characterized as property which was owned by one of the parties before the marriage or was received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance or which stems directly from otherwise separate assets. While all property is before the Court in a dissolution or legal separation, there is often much respect given to the separate/community nature of a given asset. In other words, while the Court has the power to award separate property of one spouse to the other spouse, they usually don’t. At times, however, this does happen in order for a Court to satisfy its task of achieving a “fair and equitable” division of property.
The law favors community property over separate property and property status can change where there has been, for example, commingling of community and separate assets. This area can be extremely complex and a person contemplating dissolution or legal separation is well advised to seek competent counsel in advance of filing to discuss such questions.
Debts are divided by the Court just as assets are. The same general considerations apply in both circumstances. Overall, the law requires that property and debts are divided “in a fair and reasonable manner.” Not surprisingly, divorcing couples often have widely divergent notions of what “fair and reasonable” means.
Parenting and Custody
Washington courts do not award “custody” to each parent but, rather, they determine a Parenting Plan which sets forth where the children will live and the times they will spend with each parent, defines any restrictions, sets forth decision making authority on major decisions and defines a means of alternative dispute resolution other than the Court. In every Washington dissolution where there are minor children, there must be a Parenting Plan filed with the Court by the time final dissolution papers are entered. Parenting issues often engender deep emotional feelings in the parents and call for the assistance of an experienced attorney.
In Washington, both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children. The “Washington State Child Support Schedule” was adopted by the Washington Legislature to determine the amount of child support that should be paid. These guidelines allow for consideration of many factors, including the incomes of the parties, the number and ages of the children, health insurance costs for the children, the amount of time each parent spends with the children, daycare costs and other child related expenses. Either Mike Kirk or Matt Clucas can help you estimate the amount of child support that you might pay or receive, once you have provided appropriate financial and other necessary information and they will also explain the various factors that can affect the presumptive amounts.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Spousal maintenance is intended to assist the financially disadvantaged spouse in the event of marital dissolution or legal separation. The Court looks at many factors when considering spousal maintenance such as the length of the marriage, the age, health, education and earning capacity of each spouse; the standard of living both parties enjoyed during the marriage and other financial circumstances which might affect future financial need. Matt Clucas is familiar with spousal maintenance issues and further explain the details concerning this often emotionally charged issue.
Relocation of Children
Under Washington law, the primary residential parent (defined as the parent with more than 50% of the child’s time) has the presumptive right to relocate (different school district, new town, new state or new country) with the parties’ minor children but the same law requires the party who wishes to move to file and serve a Notice of Intended Relocation on the other party. That parent is then given the right to object to such a move and potentially to prevent it by rebutting the presumption. The law requires that the Court go through an extensive set of considerations before making a decision if such an objection is raised. Either Mike Kirk or Matt Clucas can guide you through the details involved, whether you are the relocating or the objecting party.
An existing Parenting Plan may be modified under appropriate circumstances. Having said that, it should quickly be added that actions seeking a change of residence are generally difficult, but not impossible, to accomplish. This is because, in order to promote stability, the law discourages changes in the children’s principal residence. Minor changes can sometimes be more easily accomplished. If you have such a case, Matt Clucas is happy to help.
An Order of Child Support can be modified at any time once there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last order was entered. It can also be adjusted, without a reason being needed, every two years. Substantial changes in circumstances can involve a significant change in the income of either party, a child moving into a higher age category (child support is higher for children 12 and older) or a child is approaching their 18th birthday or graduation from high school when college or further vocational education is contemplated.
Other child support related issues can involve assignment of tax exemptions for the children, division of responsibility for medical insurance costs or for medical, dental or orthodontic treatment expenses and division of extracurricular activity expenses. Matt Clucas have extensive experience with these issues which be difficult to understand for the litigants involved.
Paternity issues involve cases where parents are not married. Like dissolutions, they can be complex because of the emotional and financial implications involved. Beyond the establishment of paternity (which may be admitted or proven through DNA testing), determination of child support and parenting plans are generally handled in much the same way as they are in a marriage dissolution but attention is also paid to issues which are unique to unmarried couples. Matthew Clucas is highly experienced with paternity cases and will be happy to assist you with yours.