Dethlefs  Sparwasser
Reich  Dickerson  &  Key

As she was walking her dog in her residential complex, our client was attacked and severely bitten on the hand by a female schnauzer/Wheaten terrier that was known to be dangerous by neighbors. Both the dog owners and the landlord refused to remove the dog up until that time, despite prior attacks. After our firm became involved, the dog was promptly removed and placed in another home to ensure resident safety.

Our client suffered a crush bite and sustained a laceration to her finger, with six stitches, and had sharp pain in her dominant hand that did not heal. Our firm secured a $21,000 settlement for the deserving client a month prior to trial.

If you are looking for a fierce advocate on your side, we can help. Our family law courtroom litigators work for clients everyday on complex child custody, divorce, and asset protection issues, and will fight for you to the end. With a combined 45 years of experience, principal owners Tristen Key, Lara Dethlefs and Athena Dickerson know how to protect your interests. To see how many other people agree, you don’t have to look very far. Look them up, you will see.

The following testimonial from a Washington attorney speaks to the quality of our firm’s work. With an opening offer of $23,000, the attorney obtained a $100,000 settlement for the injured client in the end. Please contact us if we can help with your case.


I just settled a case with [a homeowner’s insurer]. A 3-year-old child was bitten in the face by a Corgy, and suffered puncture wounds to her cheek, nose, and eyelid. The injury led to an eye infection that required hospitalization for several days. The client’s facial scars healed but were permanent. Local counselors were able to head off any lasting fear of dogs, with the consensus being that lasting emotional harm to the little girl was avoided.

I turned to the prior work of Jody K. Reich at Dethlefs Sparwasser Reich Dickerson & Key in Edmonds. Her quality work was a great guide. Thank you Ms. Reich!

Tristen Key has been named to the List of 10 Best Attorneys in Washington by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys. Her nomination comes after a thorough vetting process that involved input from clients and industry peers alike. Tristen has been named a Rising Star by Law and Politics and has a “superb” rating from AVVO, the leading legal networking and client review source in Washington.

Our attorneys clerked for Judges and Congressmen before founding their law firm in 2004.  This is a recent letter written by one of our attorneys to federal Judge Edward F. Shea upon his transfer to senior status after serving on the bench for 15 years in Federal District Court (EDWA).

Today is the day. The Judge wrote a letter to Barack Obama announcing his transition to senior status. He copied the Chief Justice. This is a big day.

It was the very first year of the court after many years of vacancy in Richland. President Clinton made the appointment. We were excited. We were scared. Ms. Angel Rains and I figured it out one day at a time. Our system was simple: stop everything to edit (and re-edit) a finished product for the Judge. Amazingly, our system worked. We tried, learned, and talked about stashing sleeping bags under our desks. It was all so new; construction of the court wasn’t even close to completed when we began writing memos and drafting opinions. Once we had an internet connection, we got to work.

Over the past 13 years since leaving for private practice, I have grown, evolved and matured as a lawyer, and person, doing what I love most: practicing law. Over the years, I was blessed with a husband, two children, and a practice all my own. But all I really needed to know was what I learned in clerkship: be kind, be professional, be respectful, and honor the profession by honoring yourself.

The Judge gave this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to two recent graduates from Gonzaga. We took the challenge. And ran. We had no idea what the Judge meant when he said we were lucky to have no billable hours. We had no way of knowing how insightful he was about so many things.

Judge, I hope your memories of the 14 years you have dedicated are as fond as ours.

With admiration for all you have accomplished, lived and given.

Senate Bill 6239 amended state statutes to expand domestic partnerships. In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, this modifies state-registered domestic partnerships to automatically convert any undissolved domestic partnership into a marriage, whether same-sex or not, that does not involve at least one member aged 62 years or older.  The law also provides that Washington’s registered domestic partnerships will convert automatically to marriages on June 30, 2014, if not dissolved before that date.  To avoid the automatic converstion to marriage, one of the partners must have filed for legal separation or divorce before the June 30th deadline.  All couples were informed of these changes by the State of Washington prior to the deadline.   

With the evolution of this law protecting couples in this state, one change is that a registered-domestic partnership is now obsolete in the State of Washington unless one member of the partnership is at least 62 years old.  Inheritance protections that existed for state-registered domestic partners and married couples are now equally available to same-sex couples. 

We have both estate planning and family law attorneys to help you interpret and apply these changes in your family. To update your estate plan and find out more about how recent changes in the law affect you, contact our office to meet with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys. Our family law attorneys are also available to meet with you to discuss options regarding the dissolution of your converted partnership.



The Washington State Legislature has approved new tax laws that change applicable Washington estate taxes in several difffent ways.  This affects a large number of Washington residents.  A summary of the relevant changes are provided below. 

  1. Change to the Applicable Exclusion Amount: Currently, estates of Washington decedents with less than $2 million worth of assets, per person, are not subject to Washington state estate tax.  The $2 million limit is known as the Applicable Exclusion Amount.  On January 1, 2014, the $2 million Applicable Exclusion Amount began to increase with an adjustment for inflation, potentially exposing fewer estates to Washington’s estate tax.
  2. Change to the Tax Rates: Currently, any amounts in a Washington decedent’s estate in excess of $2 million are subject to Washington state estate tax at rates ranging from 10% to 19%. Effective January 1, 2014, the upper bracket was increased from 19% to 20%.
  3. Change to the Deductions: Currently, other than out-of-state real estate, all assets in a Washington decedent’s estate are part of his Washington taxable estate.  Effective January 1, 2014, a deduction up to $2,500,000 is allowed for the value of a decedent’s Qualifying Family Owned Business Interest (QFOBI). This deduction is only available if (1) the qualified family-owned business interest exceeds fifty percent of the decedent’s Washington estate (before applying the Applicable Exclusion Amount), (2) during five of the eight years preceding his death, the decedent or his family owned and operated (or materially participated in) the business, (3) the decedent is passing his interest to a qualified heir, (4) the decedent was a US citizen or resident, and (5) the value of the decedent’s interest in the business is less than $6 million.If the estate meets the criteria above, it can claim the deduction.  However, the qualified heir receiving the business interest is not out of the woods.  For three years following the decedent’s death, the qualified heir (1) must materially participate or operate the business, (2) cannot transfer the interest to another party who is not a qualified heir or another owner, (3) must retain US citizenship, and (4) cannot move the business out of the United States.  If the qualified heir fails to meet any of the foregoing requirements during the three year period, the qualified heir must pay a tax equal to the tax savings that was given to the estate.

We strive to keep you informed of changes in the estate and tax laws that may affect you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact any member of our estate planning team. 

Attorney Jody Reich has recently secured settlements for clients suffering from injuries in the following cases:

Settlement of $50,000 in a vicious dog bite to a child in Pierce County

Settlement of $225,000 in a severe fall on snow and ice in the parking lot of a national fast food restuarant

Settlement of $60,000 in a bad faith lawsuit against State Farm for failing to pay a client’s claim

If you’ve been injured, please call for a free consultation.

Do you need advice about separation from a spouse or modification of child support?  Contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family law attorneys today.  They will walk you through one of the most stressful times in your life, save you time, money, and the anguish of having to go this alone.  If you need a strong advocate on your side, contact Dethlefs Sparwasser Reich Dickerson & Key.

In January, we will be running a special on will and estate planning packages.  Please contact our office to speak with one of our estate planning attorneys for details.  We look forward to working with you to achieve your estate and long-term financial planning goals.

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