24 North 2nd Street
Yakima, WA 98901

Phone: (509) 575-8961
Fax: (509) 575-1426

Trust & Estate Planning

Trust and Estate planning is an essential part of what we do here at Kirkevold Law Office, Inc. For individuals with estates of less than $5 Million, the primary tools for estate planning are Wills and Community Property Agreements. Depending on our client's individual situation, we are able to recommend a variety of specific options to best accomplish our clients goals by the most efficient and effective means possible.

A properly drafted Will is one of the most useful tools an individual may employ to achieve their final wishes in an accurate, effective, and efficient manner. The death of a loved one is a very traumatic time even when everything goes smoothly, therefore it is very important that we do everything within our power to prevent added stress to the loved ones we leave behind. Although a basic Will is relatively easy to create, it can limit the time and costs involved in administration of the estate during probate. Additionally, a properly drafted Will may prevent many of the family disputes that often arise during the administration of a deceased loved one's estate. Such a Will should be drafted with the ability to allow the person creating said will to make a list of individual items of their personal property and to whom they wish such items be given. Such a list should have the ability to be altered by the testator, at any time prior to death, without the need for assistance from an attorney. Although creation of a basic Will is not difficult, formalities and legal requirements associated with the process make it very important for an individual to seek the assistance of an experienced and competent advisor when drafting such a document. A will that is not properly drafted and executed with proper formalities may be found to be invalid upon the creators death, and thus useless for its intended purpose. In addition to a basic Will, we have significant experience with the creation of trusts. One of the most common forms of trust in use today is the Special Needs Trust. This is a trust that is established for the benefit of an individual with some form of disability. The benefit of a properly drafted Special Needs Trust is that the beneficiary of the trust will receive trust assets without incurring a reduction in any income derived from public benefits programs such as Medicaid or SSDI.

In conjunction with the creation of Estate Planning documents such as Wills and Trusts, we also recommend the creation of a Durable Power of Attorney and Directive to Physicians (also known as Living Wills). These are documents created in anticipation of unforeseen events that result in the permanent disability or injury of the creator. A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes a designated individual, appointed by the creator of the document, to act as Attorney-in-Fact for the creator if they are ever disabled to the point that they are unable to act for themselves. It will not, however, take effect unless clearly defined levels of incapacity occur. The advantage to having such a document is that it may eliminate the necessity for establishment of a full Guardianship, which is a rather complicated process. A Directive to Physicians is a document that provides instructions as to an individual's care should they be so incapacitated that they are unable to clearly express their wishes. The advantage to this document is to give a clear expression of an individual's wishes with regard to medical care.

Overall, the documents discussed above, when properly drafted and used in conjunction with one another, provide clear instructions on how the individual whishes to have his or her person and estate cared for in the event of death or disability, thus reducing the risk of stress, cost, and mismanagement associated with alternative methods. For more information regarding the aforementioned topics as well as other legal issues involving life planning, please read
Planning for Incapacity, Long-Term Care and Death by Kevin S. Kirkevold.


Establishment of a Guardianship can be a very stressful and complicated event in a person's life. Depending on the situation, it may mean the loss of individual freedoms that we all take for granted on a day-to-day basis. This is a difficult time not only for the individual loosing those freedoms, but for those burdened with taking them away. The guidance of an experienced and competent attorney will help alleviate much of the stress associated with the guardianship process. Here at Kirkevold Law Office, Inc., we have experience and knowledge in all aspects of the guardianship process. There are generally three instances in which a guardianship is likely to become necessary. The first instance may occur when a minor child (less than 18yrs of age) is without parents, and requires a legal guardian for his or her care and maintenance. The second situation is when a previously healthy individual suffers a debilitating injury or sickness that prevents them from effectively caring for his or her own person and estate. The third most common scenario is associated with the aging process, when an elderly individual begins to suffer the effects of dementia thus requiring the establishment of a guardianship. Although the process to establish each type of guardianship is the same, the issues involved are often quite different.

Establishment of a Guardianship is a multi-step process. First, an individual associated with the Allegedly Incapacitated Person (AIP) for whom the guardianship is to be established will file a petition with the court initiating guardianship proceedings. The court will then appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to investigate the necessity for establishment of a guardianship.

The GAL is a neutral third party who has recieved special training and is charged with the duty of investigating the facts and circumstances associated with the guardianship proceeding.  A lay guardian (i.e. non-certified professional guardian) also has to go through a training process which can involve watching a video which is available on-line. This includes interviewing the AIP and informing him or her of their legal rights, including, among other things, the right to contest the guardianship proceeding and be represented by legal counsel at a trial on the issue of establishment of the guardianship.  The GAL will also interview other interested parties and obtain a written report from a physician.  The GAL has forty five days to file a written report with the court either recomending or not recomending the establishment of the guardianship, as well as the suitability and qualification of the individual who seeks appointment as guardian. 

If the guardianship is established, the guardian will then be informed of their rights and duties, and will have to file several documents with the court providing information about the newly established guardianship. The guardian will then have to file periodic reports with the court based on a pre-determined timeframe, thus keeping the court updated as to the status of the guardianship.

Although the establishment of a guardianship is a rather complex and time consuming legal procedure, the help of the right attorney can greatly reduce the stresses involved. It is important that all of the legal requirements for establishment of a guardianship are followed correctly to insure that the individual loosing their freedoms has given up no more of those freedoms than is absolutely necessary, and that said individual is well cared for by their appointed guardian.

For more information regarding the aforementioned topics as well as other legal issues involving life planning, please read
Planning for Incapacity, Long-Term Care and Death by Kevin S. Kirkevold.


Although many people associate the probate process with an expensive, time consuming endeavor that should best be avoided at all costs, a most probates can be relatively brief and hassle free when effectively administered. If no unforeseen difficulties arise during administration, the probate may take as little as four to five months to complete where Notice to Creditors has been published, and provides an efficient and final means to distribute an individual's estate upon death. In some cases, the personal representative elects not to publish Notice to Creditors and the process can be substantially shorter.

Probate is a multi-step process intended to insure that the decedent's creditors are paid, and the remaining estate assets dispersed to the heirs without the risk of ongoing creditor's claims arising in the future. The process begins when the Personal Representative of the estate petitions the court to initiate probate proceedings. The identity of the personal representative depends on whether the estate is testate (with a valid will) or intestate (without a valid will). In a testate estate the Will appoints an individual to act as the personal representative of the estate and administer the estate throughout the probate process. If no Will is present, the court will generally appoint an heir as the Personal Representative. The duties of the Personal Representative are to notify possible creditors of the death of the testator and distribute estate assets to the heirs. Publication of Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper insures that, after four-months, any creditors that where unknown by the Personal Representative will be barred from making future claims against the estate. Without such notice, creditors may make claims against the estate until they are barred from doing so by existing statutes of limitation, which may be many years. Once the four-month period has expired, all known creditors have been paid, and all assets distributed to the heirs, a short document filed with the court closes the probate and finalized the process. Occasionally however, unforeseen complications arise during the probate process. Such complications can take a wide variety of forms, from disputes over the validity of the will, to concerns regarding the administration of the estate by the Personal Representative. In such situations it is very important to have an experienced advisor who will direct you through what can become a complicated and difficult process. Whether you have already found yourself involved in a difficult probate matter, or you simply want to do everything you can to avoid unforeseen complications, we highly recommend you find a competent attorney to assist you through the probate process.

For more information regarding the aforementioned topics as well as other legal issues involving life planning, please read
Planning for Incapacity, Long-Term Care and Death by Kevin S. Kirkevold.

Medicaid & Medicare

Medicaid and Medicare are public benefits programs administered by federal and state governments.  Although both programs are intended to aid in healthcare costs, the programs are quite different regarding the costs they pay for, and how an individual qualifies to receive benefits. Simply stated, Medicare is a system that primarily seeks to aid in payment of ordinary medical expenses associated with ongoing healthcare such as hospitalization, doctor's fees, and prescription drug expenses.  Medicare is not intended to pay for long term care expenses such as an adult family home, assisted living facility, or in-home care.  However, Medicare can pay for up to twenty days in a Skilled Nursing Facility if the patient has been hospitalized for three consecutive days and is discharged to the nursing home for rehabilitative care.  It can also help pay a portion of the cost of care for an additional eighty days in a nursing home, but the patient will have a co-pay obligation. 

Unlike Medicare, which is considered an entitlement program, Medicaid is a needs based program.  An applicant for Medicaid benefits must meet certain income and resource requirements, as well as be certified by the Department of Social and Health Services as requiring a certain level of care.  If these criteria are met, Medicaid will help pay for a portion of a person's long term care costs, whether it be in a nursing home, assisted living facility, adult family home, or in-home care.  The rules and regulations governing Medicaid eligibility are quite complex, and therefore, in most cases it makes sense to seek the advice of an attorney with expertise in dealing with Medicaid eligibility issues.  With proper planning, significant preservation of assets and savings in long term care costs can be obtained. 

For more information regarding the aforementioned topics as well as other legal issues involving life planning, please read Planning for Incapacity, Long-Term Care and Death by Kevin S. Kirkevold. Information about these programs, including how to apply and qualify, as well as what benefits may be obtained, can be found at the following links, Medicaid and Medicare . (Washington-Medicare.org is a non-government website providing information regarding Medicare in Washington. Kirkevold Law Office, Inc., has provided this link purely as a benefit to the reader, is not associated with this organization in any way, and does not endorse or authenticate the information contained within.)

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This web site is for informational and advertising purposes only. Kirkevold Law Offices, Inc., is responsible for all of the content in the advertising material. Kirkevold Law Offices, Inc., is based in Yakima, Washington with offices in Seattle, Washington. None of the information contained in this website should be construed as legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship between the viewer and Kirkevold Law Offices, Inc. The attorneys of this firm have extensive experience as Washington Elder Law Attorneys and are experienced in the fields of Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning, Guardianships, Probates, Special Needs Trusts, and other Seniors Issues. The information provided on this website does not constitute legal advice and may or may not accurately represent the current state of the law on those subjects as laws change frequently. Every legal matter is different and the information in these pages may not be applicable to any one specific case. The viewer should neither take nor refrain from taking any action on the basis of any information on this web site without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice. The receipt of an email from our law firm, even in response to a specific question, does not create an attorney-client relationship and no email exchange should be considered confidential. All attorneys at Kirkevold Law Offices, Inc., are licensed in the state of Washington. None of the information in this Web site pertains to any states other than Washington and should not be construed as solicitation of business in those or any other states. Kirkevold Law Offices, Inc., specifically disclaims any warranties of services this Web site may seem to offer. If you are unclear about the terms of this disclaimer, the accuracy of any information on the website, or if you have an issue regarding the field of Elder Law, please feel free to contact our law firm for further information.