Practice Areas

Practice Areas

Practice Areas

Dawn Richards Law Practice Areas include:

Estate Planning
Let us provide creative and personalized solutions to address all of your estate planning needs. Whatever your age, income level, and hopes for the future, you can benefit from a well-conceived and executed estate plan that will help you protect your assets, provide for your loved ones and prepare for unexpected events.  You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have done all that you can for your family.

After an individual dies, the legal title (ownership) of their property must be transferred to the beneficiaries listed in their Will. If the deceased individual did not construct a Will, the beneficiaries will be designated by state law. This process—regardless of the presence of an active will– is referred to as Probate. Probate Law is the legal process of administering the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. Probate law enacts this process by resolving all claims (debts against the deceased person’s property) and distributing the remaining property as designated by the Will. Probate law interprets the instructions of the deceased party, names the executor as the formal representative and decides the interests of other parties who have claims against the estate.

Probate is a formal process by which the Will of a deceased individual is proved to be valid, so that their property and assets can be transferred to the beneficiaries of the Will. This process requires:  filing a petition, obtaining waivers from other interested parties, publishing legal notices,  distributing assets, paying off creditors, and evaluating tax obligations.  A similar process is required where no Will has been constructed.

Some of a decedent’s property may never enter probate because it may pass to another individual contractually. Moreover, properties held in revocable or irrevocable trust—only if created during the grantor’s lifetime—will also avoid probate. In these instances, court action is not involved and the property is distributed privately (still subject to estate taxation).

If probate is necessary, the personal representative will first collect and inventory the decedent’s property. The representative will then pay all debts and taxes attached to the estate. Finally, the representative will distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries, as instructed by the Will or according to the intestacy laws of the state.

Parties may challenge any aspect of Probate law and the process; a party may directly challenge the validity of the will, challenge the status of the person serving as the personal representative or challenge whether the personal representative is properly administering the estate.

A will is a document created by the deceased during his lifetime that directs his assets to be distributed to beneficiaries upon his death.  The alternative to a will, and the default in the United States, is intestacy.  Intestacy means that your assets, at death, will be distributed to your heirs through your states laws of descent and distribution.  When creating a will, your estate planning lawyer will assess your family and friends that will be receiving bequests through your will.  Under a will the creator (knows as the testator) will direct his, or her, assets, including cash, personal property, real property and accounts to be distributed to certain individuals.  Every state has different rules when it comes to the requirements for a valid will.  There are requirements for the number of witnesses, whether or not the witnesses can be named in the Will, who must be present at the signing of a Will, how the Will is drafted, how a Will can be destroyed, and when a new Will is valid.

A trust is an agreement that places the ownership and management of any property in the hands of another party. Trusts make it possible for people to ensure that their estate will be administered ethically and later given to the beneficiaries listed by the creator of the trust.  In the United States, trusts are legal agreements between two or more parties that permit those other parties to manage assets for their growth and benefit.  Trusts are created for the personal intentions of the trust’s creator (knows as the grantor). A grantor may choose to establish a trust to ensure the welfare of his or her children or to protect certain properties and assets. Regardless of the reason, the trust must still adhere to  legal statutes and be considered valid by a court.

The most common purposes for the creation of a trust are the planning and management of an estate, keeping personal and financial matters private, the protection of assets from outside parties (such as creditor). The creation of a trust permits another party manage and distribute the assets of an estate up to the death of the grantor of the trust and for a limited time afterwards.  Trusts also avoid private matters drafted in the trust instrument from being placed in public records. This appeals to many grantors of trusts so that creditors or the general public cannot inquire as to the value of someone’s estate.
Trust attorneys advise and educate clients about the types of trusts that can be created, draft trusts and submit them to courts for approval. Each of these steps is necessary for the legal implementation of a trust. Trust attorneys operate under state and federal regulations regarding the creation and operation of trusts.  Trust attorneys may make recommendations to their clients about which kind of trust is best suited to their needs.

Business Law
Dawn Richards Law offers the full range of services essential to the success of a small to mid-sized, growth-oriented business, including negotiation of contracts and leases, due diligence, financing options, registration and permits, analysis of business structure options, operating agreements, development of employee policies, assistance with other employee related matters, regulatory research and in-house counsel services.