Mr. Vander Wel co-founded Vander Wel, Jacobson & Kim, PLLC in 1993. His litigation practice focuses on addressing questions and resolving conflicts involving real estate, business, estates, and trusts. He has received the highest (av) rating for attorneys since 1999 and a very high rating with Avvo.
When necessary, Mr. Vander Wel rigorously represents his clients in court, arbitrations, mediations and negotiations. A litigator since he began practicing law in 1988, he has assisted clients in King, Snohomish, Skagit, Pierce, Thurston, Chelan, Okanogan, Clark, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Spokane, Grant, Clark, Wahkiakum, Whatcom and Yakima Counties. In matters where settlement discussions and mediations have been unsuccessful to resolve conflicts, Mr. Vander Wel has advanced and advocated his clients’ position in bench trials, jury trials and arbitrations.
“…attorneys must be able to simultaneously listen, take a broad view, understand intricate details and persuasively present evidence and arguments.”
Mr. Vander Wel’s extensive real estate and land use litigation experience includes disputes involving real estate uses, transactions, boundary lines, easements, restrictive covenants (CC&Rs), adverse possession, zoning, code enforcements and real estate agents. He has also represented both plaintiffs and defendants in conflicts, lawsuits, and arbitrations related to businesses, contracts, collections, consumer protection, LLCs, employment, construction, torts, foreclosures and other real estate matters. Regarding personal representatives, trustees, heirs, and beneficiaries, Mr. Vander Wel has handled and tried many cases involving contested estates and trusts.
Effective attorneys must be able to simultaneously listen, take a broad view, understand intricate details and persuasively present evidence and arguments. Mr. Vander Wel has the proven ability to succeed at all these tasks.
Mr. Vander Wel has argued cases in the State Superior Courts, Courts of Appeals, Washington Supreme Court and Federal Courts. He is licensed with the Washington Supreme Court, the Western District of Washington, the Ninth Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. While most clients are charged on an hourly basis, some collections and contract litigation are performed on a contingency basis.
Mr. Vander Wel concentrated on real estate and environmental law when he studied at Drake University Law School. After serving on the Law Review, publishing two articles and receiving an award for research performed, he graduated in 1988 with honors.
For 25 years, our clients used a ten-foot wide, 90-foot long strip of property that was not part of their original parcel. Because of the location of a fence, they always believed that the strip was part of their yard and treated it as their own. After limited discovery in the case, we moved for summary judgment, which the court granted our clients in full. The Judgment & Decree entered unconditionally conveyed title to the strip to our clients and awarded them their court costs.
We represented two couples against another couple in this driveway dispute. While the other couple only had an express easement from 1934 that was seven feet wide, they and their predecessors used additional portions of our clients’ properties for ingress and egress for decades. We were able to reach an amicable settlement and avoid trial.
After she leased an apartment with another woman, our client vacated and sought to terminate her residential lease. Contrary to the Washington Residential Landlord Tenant Act and her expired lease, however, her landlord insisted that she remained liable on a month-to-month lease because her former roommate desired to continue leasing the apartment. After we sent a firm demand letter informing the landlord of the expiration of the lease and our client’s rights to terminate, it backed down.
Our client retained us to defend against an appeal by a neighboring condominium association challenging the City of Seattle’s approval of our client’s land use application to allow the construction of a 34-unit apartment building with parking for 24 vehicles. In ruling on our motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the City Hearing Examiner entered an Order dismissing the appeal.
The Paulson brothers own vacant parcels of land at the south end of a county road. When the county abruptly moved an end-of-county-road sign and stopped maintaining the portion thereof that served our clients’ properties, they sued the County to compel it to recognize that it owned their end of the road and remained responsible to maintain it. The County ultimately acknowledged its error and the parties reached a settlement without having to go to trial. The County is now maintaining its road again.
The mother of our three elderly clients lived much longer than anyone anticipated when she formed her trust benefiting them. Our clients objected to the significant fees that the institutional trustee was receiving and sought to terminate the trust and distribute its proceeds to themselves. After pursuing a TEDRA petition in court, they relatively quickly obtained the relief that they were after.
Waterfront property owners who purchased their home eight years ago discovered that their title policy did not disclose that an access easement for their neighbors actually burdened their property. This limited the full use of their property. The title policy issued had only stated that such easement benefited their property. After their attorney notified their title company of the omission, it paid them over $100,000.
Our client is a family-owned remodeling company that performed a fixed-bid remodeling project. After its customer prematurely terminated the remodeling work they were performing, that customer failed to pay them for the labor and materials provided to date. After we sued the former customer in court, the case went to mandatory arbitration. Our client recovered the full amounts to which they were entitled and the arbitrator denied the customer’s counterclaims.
Our clients own waterfront property in Kenmore which was burdened by a driveway easement benefitting a neighbor’s adjacent rental properties. The neighbor and his tenants repeatedly misused the easement for many years and interfered with our clients’ enjoyment of their property. After we sued the neighbor, the parties reached a mediated settlement. When the neighbor subsequently breached the settlement agreement, we pursued claims against him in a private arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in our clients’ favor and the neighbor was forced to pay all our clients’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
Our firm’s clients were the estate, wife and three adult children of a man whose sister sued them and his three siblings to recover a share disproportionately greater than that to which she was entitled and to resolve creditors’ claims of the deceased and his wife against the estate of his father for years of service and expenses incurred in managing a family campground. We successfully mediated this dispute and our firm’s clients have become the owners of the family campground.
Our firm’s clients were the co-personal representatives of an estate of the father of one of them, the co-trustees of a trust that he set up and the co-managers of an llc that he established. After the sole surviving sibling of one of our clients sued them for how they were handling the affairs of the estate, the trust and the llc, the King County Superior Court held a two-week trial in 2014 to sort out the complex issues. The judge ruled overwhelmingly in our clients’ favor and barred the brother and his wife from suing our clients again. When they did anyway in 2017, we successfully got the case dismissed on summary judgment. The court ruled that the sibling and his wife lost their inheritance because they triggered a no-contest provision in the will and were required to return the partial distributions that had already received and awarded our clients the attorneys’ fees and costs incurred. After the brother and his wife appealed that decision, the Court of Appeals partially affirmed it and partially reversed and remanded for further proceedings. That published decision is In the Matter of the Estate of Gillespie, 12 Wn.App.2d 154, 456 P.3d 1210 (2020).
Our firm’s elderly clients owned rental houses on adjacent lots in Kirkland built in 1905 and 1910 before the city incorporated and before any zoning code applied. Unbeknownst to them, the original lot line between the two homes ran nine inches from its foundation and its eaves hung over the common property line by approximately two feet. After living there for a few years, one of their tenants purchased one of the homes in 1986. After a 2014 survey revealed the actual location of the property line, the tenant-buyer began to increasingly encroach upon our clients’ remaining rental property. After they sued her to stop her encroachments, she counterclaimed against them alleging that she had adversely possessed a portion of their property, that they had misrepresented the property they sold and that they had failed to convey proper title. After a trial, the judge ruled overwhelmingly in our clients’ favor that they continued to own the full size of their parcel and that they did nothing wrong in the 1986 sale.
Our firm’s clients were six siblings and the estate of their deceased father. Their first cousin claimed that he was the beneficiary of a payable-on-death account which their father had held at BECU. BECU had destroyed their father’s beneficiary designations during a conversion to electronic files. After a lengthy bench trial in this King County case, the judge decreed that our firm’s clients were the beneficiaries of the disputed account and awarded them all attorneys’ fees and costs that they incurred.
Our firm’s clients sold their majority interest in a Skagit County manufacturing company to a California company in 2013 pursuant to a six-year earnout arrangement. The buyer subsequently engaged in multiple breaches, violations and defaults of the parties’ stock sale agreement and stock pledge agreement. After a lengthy hearing In this private arbitration, the arbitrator awarded our clients as the claimants $3,700,095 in damages for underpaid earnout payments and accelerated earnout payments as well as default interest on those amounts and the reasonable attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees and costs that they incurred in pursuing their claims.
“Theo was recommended to me by a Land Developer/ Contractor. His work brought us through a very tough time, but near the end the Attorney for the Plaintiff began to recommend Theo to others. No higher credit than that.”
“Theo was recommended by my estate attorney. My late parent’s Trust was named as one of thousands of defendants in a national lawsuit. It was an unusual enough lawsuit that Theo had to research the particulars for defending an expired Trust’s liabilities both for the state and nationally but he did so thoroughly and timely and was ultimately successful in getting it dismissed. Theo made a concerted effort to try and mitigate the expenses to me (as the former Trustee), since the Trust had expired previously, which I appreciated very much. I wouldn’t hesitate to use him again for any legal assistance.”
Excellent Land Use Attorney
“My husband and I were involved in a land use dispute about three-years ago. Theo was recommended by another attorney. Theo was professional and competent right from the start.
I would highly recommend him. His excellent experience in the field of Real Estate and Land Use laws will help you or your business through the ever changing ordinances in King County.”
Philip Leng, owner broker, Windermere Real Estate/Oak Tree, Inc.
“I met and was impressed by Theo some 18 years ago. I told him on the spot he was going to be my real estate lawyer. Years went by and I recommended him to many people, who started using him. Fortunately, I did not need him very much. Then 8 years ago I started investing in real estate more aggressively, and I have used him many times since. I have always been impressed. He has always delivered good advice, is a very hard worker, is extremely smart, and fun to be with as well.
I will continue to recommend him to anyone who needs a highly competent real estate attorney, as I have done in the past.”