An experienced negotiator and litigator, Karolyn’s practice focuses primarily on trust and estate disputes, complex business disputes, and disputes between members of closely held companies.

Clients come to Karolyn for her compassionate advocacy and insightful counsel while working in their best interest. Highly regarded as a top trust and estate litigator in Washington, Karolyn uses her long-standing, well-established relationships with other leading attorneys in her field to avoid litigation and resolve matters early. When a case cannot be settled, she is a seasoned litigator—with a demonstrated track record—on behalf of her clients.

In her 23 years of private practice, Karolyn has handled cases on behalf of fiduciaries, beneficiaries, charities, major corporations, closely held businesses, and individual parties. Karolyn is ranked in Chambers High Net Worth Guide as a Band 1 practitioner for Private Wealth Disputes - Washington.

Karolyn also serves as a mediator in numerous and varied cases, helping attorneys achieve settlements for their clients and avoid ongoing fees, costs, trials and appeals.


  • Washington, 2000
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (2000)
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (2001)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2001)


  • American University, J.D., cum laude, Note and Comment Editor of the American University Law Review (2000)
  • Pennsylvania State University, B.A. in Administration of Justice, Women’s Studies and Philosophy, cum laude (1997)

Recognition & Honors

  • Band 1, Chambers High Net Worth Guide, Private Wealth Disputes - Washington (2021-2023)
  • Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (2017 - present)
  • Lawyer of the Year for Trust & Estates Litigation by Best Lawyers (2020)
  • Best Lawyers in America in Litigation - Trusts and Estates (2017 - 2024)
  • Washington Super Lawyers (2013 - 2023)
  • Top 50 Women Lawyers, Washington Super Lawyers (2014 - 2015, 2017, 2019 - 2022)
  • Top 100 Lawyers, Washington Super Lawyers (2014, 2020-2022)
  • Top-Rated Lawyer, West Coast, National Law Journal (2017)
  • Top-Rated Lawyer in Trust & Estates, American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell (2015)
  • AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review (2013-present)
  • Rising Star, Washington Super Lawyers (2011 - 2012)
  • Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, King County Bar Association (2008)

Representative Work

  • On behalf of co-trustees and co-personal representatives, prevailed at trial level and on appeal in trust interpretation lawsuit against beneficiary. In re Estate of Ellstrom, 2019 WL 2423343 (Div. I June 10, 2019) (unpublished).

  • Obtained favorable Court of Appeals ruling in will contest defending decedent's intent as expressed in his Revocable Trust. In re Estate of Bernard, 182 Wn. App. 692, 332 P.3d 480 (2014), review denied, 181 Wn.2d 1027 (2014).

  • Successfully overturned Last Will and Testament, and obtained favorable settlement for charitable client against financial exploiter who had conned an elderly gentleman into leaving him his over $40 million estate.

  • Routinely negotiate favorable settlements for beneficiaries in highly contested trust and estate disputes.

  • At least three years serving as a mediator in numerous and varied cases, helping attorneys achieve settlements for their clients and avoid ongoing fees, costs, trials and appeals.

  • Favorably settled right-of-first-refusal dispute on $18+ million waterfront commercial property.

  • Obtained judgment confirming $8.5 million arbitration award for T-Mobile, USA, Inc. against Qwest Corporation for reimbursement of unlawful and improper messaging charges on local telephone calls in violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

  • Obtained arbitration award on full value of claim, plus attorneys’ fees, for T Mobile, USA, Inc. on dealer contract dispute.

  • Obtained favorable defense verdict for AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. in a contract dispute over an intellectual property license fee associated with workforce software.

  • Litigated on behalf of and obtained judgment for against its insurer for litigation costs incurred defending three major patent infringement lawsuits in Western District of Washington.

  • Obtained favorable settlement for small business owners in a dispute with a former partner/shareholder concerning the value of the Company for purposes of shareholder buy-out.

  • In re Matter of Marital Tr. B Created Under Last Will & Testament of Felecia A. Graham Dated Oct. 26, 1998, 11 Wash. App. 2d 608, 455 P.3d 187 (2019), review denied, 195 Wn.2d 1026 (2020)(attorney for Trustee).

  • Go2Net, Inc. v. C I Host, Inc., 115 Wn. App. 73, 60 P.3d 1245 (2003) (attorney for plaintiff).

  • Monson Fruit Co., Inc. v. Marsh Advantage America, 120 Wn. App. 1045, 2004 WL 440842  (Wn. App. Div. III March 11, 2004) (unpublished) (attorney for defendant).

  • Castle v. State of Washington, 2004 WL 1985215 (Wash. Super. Sept. 7, 2004), rev’d sub nom. Andersen v. King County, 158 Wn.2d 1, 138 P.3d 963 (2006)  (attorney for plaintiffs).

  • Heinsma v. City of Vancouver, 144 Wn.2d 556, 29 P.3d 709 (2001) (Amicus Curie for ACLU).

Publications & Presentations

  • "VAPA/APS Overlap re: Financial Exploitation & Slayer/Abuser Statute," presenter, KCBA Hot Topics in Guardianship & Elder Law CLE (March 16, 2023)

  • “No Contest Clauses,” presenter, the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (“ACTEC”) Western Regional Meeting 2022, Girdwood, Alaska (July 22-24, 2022)
  • "TEDRA at 22 - Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act," presenter, King County Bar Association (May 12, 2022)
  • "Trending Disputes and Cases," panelist, Washington State Bar Association 19th Annual Trust & Estate Litigation CLE (April 22, 2022)
  • "Trust & Estate Disputes," presenter, Stokes Lawrence Presents: Webinar Series (March 31, 2022)
  • Issues Involving Beneficiaries, Estate Planning, Probate, and Trust Administration in Washington, Chapter 4, Washington State Bar Association (2020)
  • "Select Ethical Considerations in Trust & Estate Litigation," presenter, WSBA 17th Annual Trust and Estate Litigation Seminar (April 2020)

  • "Kindred of the Half-Blood: Not a Harry Potter Book," author, blog post, StokesLaw Briefs (February 2020)

  • "Life's a Breach, and So You Litigate," panelist, 2019 Real Property, Probate & Trust Midyear, presented by WSBA (June 2019)

  • "Trust and Estate Litigation After Rathbone: Jurisdiction, Standing, and Other Considerations," panelist, 2018 Real Property, Probate & Trust Midyear, presented by WSBA (June 2018)

  • "What Not To Do: Real Life Ethical Violations in Trust & Estate Practices," WSBA 15th Annual Trust and Estate Litigation Seminar (April 2018)

  • "TEDRA,” presenter, WSBA Practice Primer: Estate Planning (November 2017)

  • "The Miracle of TEDRA," presenter, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Probate, Skagit County Bar Association CLE (November 2017)

  • "Get Your Business Dispute Out of My TEDRA," author, WSBA Real Property Probate and Trust Section Newsletter (Spring 2017)

  • "Attorney's Fees in Probate, Guardianships and Estate Litigation," presenter, 2016 Real Property, Probate & Trust Midyear, presented by WSBA (June 2016)

  • "Post-Death Disputes With Partners, Shareholders or Members in Closely Held Businesses," presenter, Personal Estate Planning for the 99%, King County Bar Association CLE (May 2016)

  • "Nuts & Bolts of TEDRA," presenter, Maintaining a Balance: Ethics and Probate Litigation, King County Bar Association CLE (August 2015)

  • "Talking TEDRA," author, King County Bar Association Bar Bulletin (December 2014)

  • "Top 10 Ways to Reduce Family Controversy in Trusts and Estates," author, Stokes Law Briefs blog post (September 2014)

  • "Court of Appeals Sets Record Straight on Fiduciaries' Role and the Scope of TEDRA," author, StokesLaw Briefs blog post (August 2014)

  • "Will Contests: To File or Not to File? That is the Question," author, Stokes Law Briefs blog post (March 2014)

  • "E-Discovery Issues in Litigation," presenter, 2013 Real Property, Probate & Trust Midyear, presented by WSBA (June 2013)

  • "When Death & Divorce Collide - Examining Wills & Estates," presenter, Divorce, Washington Style: Exploring the Unique Financial Aspects of Marriage Dissolution, presented by WSBA (June 2013)

  • "Can You Do That Under TEDRA?" speaker, 10th Annual Trust & Estate Litigation Seminar, presented by WSBA (April 2013)

  • "A TEDRA Litigator's Advice on How Best to Defend Against a Challenge to Documents You Draft," WSBA Real Property Probate and Trust Section Newsletter (Fall 2012)

  • "The 9th Annual Trust & Estate Litigation Seminar," co-chair and presenter, WSBA CLE (March 2012)

  • "Handling the Difficult Client," presenter, King County Bar Association, Intellectual Property Section (January 2012)

  • "Teach Those Children Well: Successor Fiduciary Administration (and Litigation)," co-author, 38 REAL PROPERTY PROBATE & TRUST (WSBA, Fall 2011)

  • "Handling the Difficult Client," presenter, 2011 Real Property, Probate & Trust Section Midyear, WSBA/RPPT Section (June 2011)

  • "Introduction to Fiduciary Duties," presenter, Advanced Issues in Elder Law CLE, King County Bar Association (March 2011)

  • "The 8th Annual Trust and Estate Litigation Seminar," co-chair and presenter, WSBA CLE (March 2011)

  • "The 7th Annual Trust and Estate Litigation Seminar," co-chair and presenter, WSBA CLE (March 2010)

  • "Who Receives the Proceeds of Life Insurance," co-author, 37 REAL PROPERTY PROBATE & TRUST (WSBA, Winter 2010)

  • "Insurance Issues in Trust & Estate Litigation," co-author, Sixth Annual Trust & Estate Litigation CLE (March 2009)

  • "E-Discovery Issues in Trust & Estate Litigation," presenter, WSBA Best of CLE: Encore of Excellence (December 2008)

  • Estate Disputes, WASHINGTON PROBATE DESKBOOK, Chapter 9 (with Scott A.W. Johnson), Washington State Bar Association (2005)

Professional & Community Activities

  • Contributing Author & Editor, Real Property Probate and Trust Section quarterly newsletter Litigation Sub-Committee, Washington State Bar Association,

  • Member, Litigation Sub-Committee, Real Property Probate and Trust Section, Washington State Bar Association

  • Volunteer Attorney, Neighborhood Clinics, King County Bar Association (2005 - 2019)

Background & Interests


Karolyn is a native New Yorker who moved to Seattle in 2000, started her practice, and is raising a family in the beautiful PNW. In her free time, she likes to hike, ski, and take her children to the park. In 2020, Karolyn was inducted into her high school’s (St. Francis Prep.’s) Terrier Ring of Honor, which honors athletic achievement while attending the school. Many of her high school records in track and field still stand 28 years later.