Tips for Keeping Your Relationship with Your Estate Planning Lawyer Efficient and Productive

When you hire a lawyer to prepare your estate plan, both you and the lawyer should work at keeping your working relationship efficient and productive. Your lawyer should always clearly explain your options, estimate what the legal work will cost, and treat your decisions with respect. Here are some pointers for holding up your end of the deal.

BE HONEST AND FORTHCOMING. To get the best estate plan for you and your family, you’ll need to give your lawyer detailed information about your assets and finances—what you own, what it’s worth, how you hold title, and so on. But estate planning is all about your goals for your family—which means that you may also need to share some private or embarrassing information about family members. For example, what if you want to leave money to your children equally, but one of them is terrible with money, has an addiction problem, or is married to someone you don’t trust?

Your lawyer should have some good suggestions for ways to handle difficult family situations. Instead of leaving money outright to an irresponsible child, for example, you might want to set up a trust, with someone else to manage the money for that child’s benefit. A solution like that could save your family a lot of heartache down the road.

It’s unpleasant to air this kind of dirty laundry, but it’s imperative that you do so. Keep in mind that your lawyer has heard about all kinds of family dysfunction before and won’t be shocked by anything you have to say. And because of attorney-client confidentiality, your lawyer cannot disclose anything you say in the context of your professional relationship.

PAY BILLS PROMPTLY. Paying your lawyer on time sounds simple, but clients sometimes let lawyers’ bills slide. And you can’t expect a lawyer to keep working for you without getting paid. If you’re having trouble with a bill, talk to the lawyer and work out a plan for payments.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. Lawyers are good at lots of things, but they aren’t always good at explaining legal concepts in plain English—and you probably don’t want to pay them to educate you, anyway. So get a leg up on the whole estate planning process by learning the basics before you see a lawyer. If you’re an informed client, you’ll know what questions to ask and be more likely to understand the answers.

ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t be afraid to ask about anything you’re unsure of. But you can make things more efficient for both you and the lawyer if you collect a few questions and ask them together, during one phone call or visit. (If you’re paying hourly, this will also save you money.) Email is also a good way to organize your thoughts and questions. If you’re talking on the phone or in person, take notes on the lawyer’s answers—estate planning can be legally complicated and emotionally taxing, and (just as when you visit the doctor) it can be hard to remember everything you heard.

HELP OUT. Don’t pay a lawyer for routine tasks that don’t require legal skills. You can do a lot of work yourself. For example, you could gather documents the lawyer wants to see, such as deeds, divorce decrees, insurance policies, and retirement account statements. You could also make phone calls to track down information.

We have been representing estate planning clients for the past 22 years. If you have questions about how we can be of service to you and your family, give us a call at 253.858.5434. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When you've been injured in an auto collision, call a lawyer sooner rather than later.

When you've been injured in an automobile collision, call a lawyer sooner rather than later. We'll deal with the insurance companies for you, gather your medical records, analyze your claim, and present a settlement proposal to the insurance company on your behalf. We have represented injured people and their survivors for over 20 years. If we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation right away.

When it comes to getting legal advice for your small business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Among the countless worries for entrepreneurs who are starting or are already running a small business is the question of whether they need a lawyer. The perception is that lawyers charge high rates and many small businesses don't have much, if any, extra capital with which to pay lawyers. As a result, most small business owners only hire a lawyer when confronted with a serious legal problem (e.g., you're getting sued). However, legal help is a cost of doing business that often saves you money and helps your business in the long run.

While you certainly don't need a lawyer for every step of running your business, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure. There are times when a business faces issues that are too complex, too time consuming, or fraught with liability issues to handle on your own. At that point, the wisest move is to hire a lawyer. A few examples include:

* Creating a partnership agreement, limited liability company (LLC) operating agreement, or shareholders' agreement;
* Creating contracts for use with customers or clients;
* Creating a buy-sell agreement with partners;
* Updating any partnership, LLC, or shareholders' agreements under which you are currently operating;
* Former, current, or prospective employees suing on the grounds of discrimination in hiring, firing, or hostile work environment;
* Local, state, or federal government entities filing complaints or investigating your business for violation of any laws;
* You want to make a "special allocation" of profits and losses or you want to contribute appreciated property to your partnership or LLC agreement;

* An environmental issue arises and your business is involved (even if your business didn't cause the environmental problem, you may be penalized);
* Negotiating for the sale or your company or for the acquisition of another company or its assets.

While you certainly need to hire a lawyer for the serious issues above, your emphasis should be placed on preventing such occurrences in the first place. Prevention does not necessarily involve hiring a lawyer, though consulting with one wouldn't hurt. By the time you or your business is sued, the preventable damage has been done and the only question that remains is how much you'll be paying in attorney's fees, court fees, and damages.

For example, by the time a prospective employee files a lawsuit claiming discrimination based in part upon questions posed at the job interview, all you can do is hire a lawyer to defend the lawsuit. If, on the other hand, you had done your own research on anti-discrimination laws, or you had consulted a lawyer beforehand, you would have known not to inquire as to whether the applicant was pregnant or planned on becoming pregnant. The small effort at the beginning of the process would save you an enormous headache later.

To prevent unnecessary legal costs at the inception of your business as well as tremendous costs after a lawsuit has been filed, you might consider a consultation arrangement with a lawyer. Such an arrangement would entail you doing most of the legwork of research and the attorney providing legal review or guidance. For example, you might use self help and online sources to create a contract with a vendor and ask a lawyer to simply review and offer suggestions. Or from the previous example, you might research types of questions to ask during an interview and then send the list to a lawyer for their approval. This way, you prevent the potential headache later and the cost to you is minimal because you've already done most of the work and the lawyer simply reviews the document.

You obviously won't need a lawyer for each and every legal issue that comes up in your business. But when you do, it's good to know where to find the right one. And--more to the point--you may not know you need legal help until it's too late, as lawyers can help you stay in compliance with the law and spot developing legal issues early. Get ahead of the curve by finding an experienced lawyer to advise you on your small business's legal needs.

We have been representing small businesses and their owners for 22 years. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service.

What is a probate lawyer?

At one point or another, we all hear about probate lawyers. If you’re like most people you don’t pay attention until one day you’re faced with the inevitable – you need one. So what specifically is a probate lawyer?

A probate lawyer manages the filing of a deceased individual's Will. Sometimes there are disputes that arise from the disposition of property. Basically, a probate lawyer is an estate or a trust lawyer.

Far too many people do not think about finding a probate lawyer until someone has died. When this happens, then there is a sense of urgency to hire a lawyer, therefore not allowing a lot of time to shop around for the lawyer who will best represent your interests.

This area of law can be simple and straightforward or it can be confusing and convoluted. All this depends on the degree of estate planning by the deceased while they were living.

Before going any further, this is a good time to stress the importance of having a Will and making sure you have completed as much as possible to ensure that your family members are not going to experience any added emotional distress after you die. It isn’t something we like to do, but in reality it truly can be the best thing you can do for your loved ones while you are alive.

Simply defined, probate is the process that occurs after an individual dies that involves distributing assets and taking care of any debts. This is a process that happens regardless of whether or not there is a Will.

Probate attorneys can help you create a Will so that your family members can have some security in the event of your death. They also can assist with trust planning (including living trusts) as well as powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney. In addition, a probate lawyer can help a person with asset protection and, of course, the preparing and filing of all documents required by a probate court.

There are other matters that probate lawyers deal, with such as income tax issues, requesting court permission for various actions as required, and retitling the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries.

Some people question if they really need a lawyer to do all this and there is no for sure answer because ultimately the choice is up each individual. Legally a lawyer does not have to write a Will or handle an estate. This can be done on your own but it is not advisable because failure to execute administer the estate properly may end up in a personal liability lawsuit after all is done. Challenges to a Will can and do occur on a regular basis and when this happens it becomes necessary to have a good lawyer who is fully equipped to handle the case.

Making sure that everything is taken care of before passing on is crucial. An experienced lawyer will know everything that needs to be done in order to probate an estate in a timely manner.

Remember, having a Will may ultimately be the best gift you can give to your loved ones. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service to you, your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

Legal Writing Tip #847 (file this under "Words Matter")

Both i.e. and e.g. are abbreviations of Latin phrases used to clarify writing. They’re similar – but not identical – and getting them wrong can change the meaning of your document. Here’s a rundown.

An abbreviation for “id est,” i.e. is used to restate in different words what you’ve just said, i.e., to offer more information or be more explicit:

* A gratuity is already included in the bill, i.e., no tips are necessary.

* We offer new renters the standard discount, i.e., one month free.

* I like to play board games, i.e., Monopoly and Scrabble. (Note: using i.e. implies that those are the only board games you enjoy.)

An abbreviation for “exempli gratia,” e.g. is used to provide an example. Importantly, what follows e.g. is not a finite list but rather just a few examples from a longer list:

* Be sure to eat enough foods with protein, e.g., nuts, beans, and cheese.

* She was the star of many 6th grade activities (e.g., chess, soccer, and choir).

* I like to play board games, e.g., Monopoly and Scrabble. (Note: using e.g. implies you’re listing just a couple of the board games you like.)

Regarding mechanics, sometimes you’ll see these abbreviations in italics but that’s not required. What is required is a period after each letter, and the abbreviations are usually followed by a comma. Essentially, i.e. and e.g. are to be treated like the phrases they represent so use the same punctuation you otherwise would (e.g., you can use them in parenthesis, after a comma, a semicolon, or even a dash if you want emphasis).

Of course, whenever possible, it’s preferable to use English instead of Latin and full words (“in other words” or “for example”) instead of abbreviations. But i.e. and e.g. are certainly acceptable, especially when space is at a premium.

To our lawyer colleagues, please stop using i.e. when you mean e.g., because now you've just changed the meaning of the Order you asked the Judge to sign and we're going to have to come back to Court to clarify.

Powers of Attorney for Minor Children's Health Care

What happens to your kids if you become incapacitated, either because of illness, injury, or age and the other parent is unavailable to make decisions for them? Washington law now allows parents of minor children to prepare a Power of Attorney for Children's Health Care, appointing someone you know and trust to make the child's health care decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself and the other parent is either dead, also incapacitated, or otherwise unavailable. You can also use this document to nominate a guardian for your child is one is necessary.

If you would like to learn more about preparing a Power of Attorney for Children's Health Care, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.

Attorneys Against Hunger Fundraiser - Benefitting the Idaho Foodbank

Idaho Folks - The Idaho State Bar is asking you to participate in the 2018 Attorneys Against Hunger fundraiser benefitting the Idaho Foodbank.

The Idaho Foodbank fills a vital role in Idaho by providing food assistance to the 221,800 Idahoans who are food insecure. 13.2% of Idaho's residents are food insecure and 16.7% of Idaho's children are food insecure - that's 72,840 children.

On Wednesday, October 17, please go to Boise Brewing (521 W. Broad Street in Boise) from 5:00-7:00 to help benefit this great cause. Boise Brewing will be donating 10% of its sales to the Idaho Foodbank. In addition, food will be provided by Goodwood BBQ for a suggested $20 donation.

It's hard to know what to do after a car crash, but we can guide you through the process so you can focus on recovering.

It can be difficult to know what to do after a serious auto collision, but we can guide you through the legal process so you can focus on recovering from your injuries. Auto collisions happen every day and serious injuries are common. If someone else caused your crash, you shouldn't have to pay for the consequences. We can help you determine who was at fault and negotiate with the insurance companies to ensure a fair settlement. Personal injury claims can be complex, requiring knowledge about laws, statutes of limitations, and negotiation skills. The laws surrounding personal injuries are complicated and it's easy to miss a deadline or overlook negotiation tactics. By hiring us, you can ensure the best outcome in your situation. Call us today at 253.858.5434 for a free case evaluation.

We represent numerous small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

We represent numerous small businesses and their owners, as well as several nonprofit organizations and churches, assisting these clients with the business formation and governance, contracts, leases, policies, and collection of delinquent accounts. If you're a small business owner and need assistance with your day-to-day legal needs, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service.

Interesting Recent Decision Out of the Illinois Court of Appeals, Holding that a Testator's Delusions Didn't Affect His Testamentary Capacity - In re Estate of Myren, 2018 Ill. App. (4th) 170860-U.

Interesting recent decision out of the Illinois Court of Appeals holding that a testator's delusions didn't affect his testamentary capacity - In re Estate of Myren, 2018 Ill. App. (4th) 170860-U.

David Myren's children contested his 2012 Will, in which he left his estate to the National Rifle Association and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They claimed that, due to "insane sexual delusions" regarding his children's activities, he was incapable of "recognizing and providing for the natural objects of his bounty" (the standard for capacity to make a Will).

The trial court ruled that although there was no basis for Myren's "delusional" statements, it did not find that "but for" the comments, he would have made the Will in question. The Illinois Court of Appeals agreed.

Testimony from Myren's long-time lawyer, doctor, and banker indicated that while he made unfounded comments about his children's sexual activities, he showed no confusion or neurosis that would cause him to favor charities over his children. Instead, the Court found, Myren was bitter that, following his acrimonious divorce from the children's mother, they sided with her. He also complained to acquaintances that the children did not allow him to see his grandchildren, they did not help with the farm, and they only showed up during deer season when they wanted to hunt on his land.

The appellate court said the ultimate question was whether his alleged sexual delusions destroyed his testamentary capacity, adding that even if a testator has an insane delusion, "if the property and objects of bounty are known by the testator, and the property is disposed of according to a plan, the Will will not be set aside for lack of testamentary capacity." Nothing indicated that Myren, who was a strong proponent of the 2nd Amendment and enjoyed elk hunting, would not have made this Will but for his delusions. Myren had an obvious plan for his estate and legitimate reasons to disinherit his children, the Court determined.

If you have questions about capacity to sign a Will or Will contests, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Interesting Recent Ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, Letter Ruling 201825003

Interesting recent ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, Letter Ruling 201825003:

An art collector entered into a deed of transfer with two museums in a foreign country to pass title to the artworks at her death. During her lifetime, the owner was entitled to keep possession of the artwork, subject to a favorable ruling from the IRS that the transaction is not a completed gift.

The art collector asked the IRS to rule that the deed of transfer not be treated as a completed gift for gift tax purposes. The IRS noted that, under the deed of transfer, the donor has retained no power to change the disposition of the collection to the museums. Her grant to the museums of the "legal title, naked ownership and remainder interest" in the collection would be a completed gift for gift tax purposes, but for the condition precedent of the receipt of a favorable IRS ruling.

Sounds complicated, huh? Estate and gift tax matters usually are. If you have questions about how the tax laws affect your estate planning, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Interesting Recent Court Decision Overruling a Jury's Decision that a Will was Valid: In re Estate of Fraccaro, 2018 NY Slip Op 319

Interesting recent decision out of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York regarding a jury's finding that a Will was valid. In re Estate of Fraccaro, 2018 NY Slip Op 319:

Antonio Fraccaro's 2012 Will left his estate to a hospital. In 2015, shortly after moving into an adult home and while terminally ill with cancer, Fraccaro signed another Will leaving half of his estate to Alberta Ross, the operator of the adult home. He died three days later.

The hospital, the NY State Attorney General, and the Executor of the 2012 Will challenged the validity of the 2015 document, saying it was not properly executed, Fraccaro lacked capacity, and Ross had exercised undue influence over Fraccaro. The jury found Fraccaro was competent, there was no undue influence, and the Will was properly executed.

The appeals court noted that the Will was entirely handwritten by Ross, with no lawyer present at the signing. One of the two witnesses to the Will - a resident and employee of the adult home - said Fraccaro had not eaten and she had given him oxycodone about 30 minutes prior to signing his Will. She could not recall if he had his glasses, which he needed for reading the document. The second witness - also a resident of the adult home and a friend of Ross - gave testimony with "multiple inconsistencies" and in conflict with her deposition testimony, the Court said.

New York state law requires that a Will submitted for probate be validly executed and express the testator's intent. The Court found the jury's verdict to be "against the weight of the evidence" and insufficient to support the finding that the Will was valid and properly executed.

Making sure your Will is properly prepared, signed, and witnessed is important. If you have questions about a Will, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Discounts on Estate Planning Legal Services for Cops, Firefighters, Preachers, and Teachers

In case you forgot, or didn't know, we offer certain discounts on estate planning services. Police officers, firefighters, ministers, and teachers we represent all get their fees cut in half for their estate plans. So if you're a cop, firefighter, preacher, or teacher or if you know one who needs a Will, Trust, Power of Attorney, etc., give us a call at 253.858.5434. We proudly represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Despite their funny commercials, insurance companies are aggressive, demanding, and not at all forgiving of claims for injuries resulting from auto collisions.

Despite their funny commercials, the insurance industry is aggressive, demanding, and not at all forgiving of claims for injury resulting from auto collisions. Innocent victims are often made to feel like liars, and real life tragedies are minimized by claims adjusters who are trained to act nice initially, and to then limit, deny, stall, delay, avoid, and ignore.

Without question, an auto collision victim is generally not equipped to deal with these trained insurance professionals. We highly recommend consulting with a lawyer when you've been hurt in an auto collision. If you, a family member, friend, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in an auto collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation today.

What should you look for when reviewing a contract?

Most business people enter into contracts on a regular basis. They sign property leases, vehicle and equipment leases, advertising agreements, copier and phone system leases, web site development and maintenance agreements, banking documents, service contracts, and numerous other contracts in the usual course of business. Some of those contracts are simple, easily understandable documents while others are all but incomprehensible. It is not uncommon for otherwise very careful people to glance over a contract and just sign it without really knowing what it obligates them or the other party to do.

In its most basic form, a contract is merely an agreement between two or more people to do or not do a particular thing. That sounds simple, but when those obligations are buried in the fine print in the middle of a lengthy document, it may not be so easy to understand exactly what the parties are agreeing to do or not do.

So, what should you look for when reviewing a contract? Here are a few suggestions:

1. NEGOTIATE THE TERMS. When presented with a contract, remember that this is a starting point. You can negotiate the terms of nearly every agreement. You want to make the deal happen, but so does the other person. Ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is they say no.

2. IDENTIFY THE PARTIES. Use the complete name of the business to avoid confusion and identify corporate officers as such. Determine the marital status of individuals if spouses will be required to join in execution of the document.

3. FILL IN ALL THE BLANKS. Complete all blanks on any preprinted form because items left blank can be filled in later by someone else. Be sure all changes or deletions are initialed.

4. DOUBLE CHECK THE TERMS. Double check the business terms of the contract (price, amount, duration, square footage, etc.) to determine whether it accurately reflects the agreement of the parties.

5. AUTOMATIC RENEWALS. Look for automatic renewals. Do you have to give notice if you do not want to renew? Are there penalties if notice is not timely given? Is renewal on the same terms as the original agreement? Are there price increases? Consider adding options to renew on favorable terms.

6. ALLOCATING RISK. Risk is typically borne by the party in the best position to prevent loss. However, there may be reasons for a different allocation. Check insurance requirements. Will you be able to obtain the required insurance within your budget?

7. INDEMNIFICATION PROVISIONS. Check hold harmless and indemnification provisions. When you agree to hold someone harmless you are agreeing to not hold them responsible for liability that may arise out of the transaction. When you indemnify someone, you are agreeing to protect them from liability or loss that may arise out of the transaction. If you must indemnify the other party, limit the indemnification as much as possible. Negotiate the same indemnification for yourself. For instance, if you, as a buyer, agree to indemnify the seller of a business for losses they may incur as a result of actions after the sale, then they should indemnify you for losses you may incur as a result of actions before the sale.

8. INCORPORATED DOCUMENTS. When another document is incorporated by reference, always read the incorporated document. Don’t assume you know what it contains.

9. EVENTS OF DEFAULT. Determine what acts constitute events of default and whether you are able to enter into and perform under the contract without causing a default. Also consider what should be included as events of default by the other party.

10. REMEDIEIS. Review remedies provisions. Determine the worst that can happen to you if you default. Explore ways to limit your liability. Also determine what types of remedies you need in the event of default by the other party.

11. TERMINATION. Review causes for termination. Consider including ways to terminate the contract if it is not working to your benefit.

12. DATES AND DEADLINES. Always keep a calendar of dates and deadlines for important events and anything required to be done by you or the other party.

13. WARRANTIES AND REPRESENTATIONS. Review and understand warranties and representations given by you and the other party. Don’t give any representation if you do not actually know that the representation is true or if the other party is in a better position to know the facts being represented. If you must give warranties, try to limit them as much as possible. For example, a warranty in a deed might say that you warrant title to the property. You can limit the warranty by saying that you warrant title to the property only during the period of time in which you owned the property. Remember that the other party is trying to do the same, so watch for disclaimers or limitations.

14. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES. Carefully read the entire contract because rights and responsibilities are typically scattered throughout the agreement.

15. DISPUTE RESOLUTION. Determine how you want to deal with resolution of disputes. An arbitration or mediation requirement could ultimately save you lots of time and money. However, there are times when you may want to go to court to resolve the dispute. When appropriate, try to give yourself some flexibility.

If you are a small business owner and have questions about the contracts you enter into during the course of business, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help. We proudly serve clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.