Why it helps to hire a lawyer when you've been hurt in an auto collision.

If you've been hurt in an auto collision, hiring a lawyer can help in the following ways:

ABILITY TO ASSESS CLAIMS. At our law firm, we handle personal injury claims on a daily basis. We can assess a claim and inform the potential client whether or not the situation presents a viable claim. Additionally, we can recommend a course of legal action to pursue.

ABILITY TO HANDLE COMMUNICATIONS WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES. When you pay your bill, you have little interaction or issues with insurance companies. However, once you have been involved in a collision, your interests and the car insurance company’s interests may not align. If you have to make an uninsured motorist claim or otherwise seek recourse against your own insurance company, you may be confused about your rights. Likewise, you likely have little experience dealing with other people’s insurance companies. We are experienced with handling communications and negotiations with insurance companies.

We can handle communications with the insurance company and act as the liaison between you and the insurance company. This can help alleviate such stressful communications and remove you from the precarious position of potentially saying something that can harm your claim.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MEDICAL NEEDS. After a collision, you may have been physically injured. You may have never had an injury of that nature before. We have seen a number of injuries and may be able to recommend medical providers that may give you more information or that may help your treatment.

Additionally, we can discuss the potential long-term effects that your injury may have on you and your family. This information is important to know when assessing a settlement offer.

LEGAL ADVICE. Having a lawyer means that you will have access to someone who is familiar with the law and who can advise you in ways that can prevent you from adversely affecting your claim. Handling a case on your own may result in you causing irreparable damage to your case. For example, you could miss a filing deadline that can permanently bar your case.

ABILITY TO ESTIMATE SETTLEMENT VALUE. Because we routinely deal with cases like yours, we will have a good idea about what a good settlement figure would be in your case. We can tell you if your idea is unrealistic or if you are failing to take certain expenses into account if you have received a settlement that does not represent the true value of your claim.

NEGOTIATIONS WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES. Once we estimate the potential value of a claim, we can negotiate with the insurance adjuster. Most laypeople are not seasoned negotiators. They may not know the techniques to get the insurance company to pay the maximum amount on a claim.

LEGAL KNOWLEDGE. Not all cases are cut and dry. Some may involve multiple tortfeasors or raise questions of liability. We understand the laws in Washington and Idaho and can use this knowledge to consider strategies in settling your case. This knowledge may also assist us in knowing when a more extensive investigation is necessary. For example, we might need to hire private investigators or accident reconstruction experts.

LEGAL REPRESENTATION. The vast majority of personal injury cases settle well before trial. However, some insurance companies will proceed to trial in order to prevent claims of that nature from arising in the future or to avoid getting a reputation as a company that will resolve every claim through settlement. Therefore, it is important that you hire a lawyer who can provide you with competent legal representation in court.

COMPETE ON LEVEL GROUND. The insurance company that represents the defendant most definitely has a lawyer on retainer to act in the company’s interest. By trying to handle your claim yourself, you will likely be at a disadvantage. Having a lawyer ensures that you have an advocate who is vested in protecting your legal interests.

If you or a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in an auto collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service.

Representing Clients in Commercial Real Estate Transactions

We provide services associated with commercial real estate transactions. Commercial real estate law may be complex, in that transactions are impacted by statutory limitations and requirements, contractual provisions, and often local or county restrictions or procedures as well. If you’re not familiar with the intricacies of commercial real estate law, it’s very easy to make a misstep or overlook a requirement. Fortunately, we are experienced in managing the complexities of commercial real estate transactions.

PURCHASE & SALE AGREEMENTS. The purchase and sale agreement forms the foundation of any real estate transaction. A well-constructed agreement that is clear and complete will allow the parties to avoid most questions and conflicts that might arise later in the transaction or after completion, whereas relying on a form agreement or attempting to adapt from a past transaction can leave gaps, create confusion, or even fail to fulfill legal requirements.

Each party to the transaction should be represented by their own lawyer so that the agreement can be fully negotiated and reviewed for the protection of both the buyer and the seller, reviewed on behalf of each party and thoroughly explained.

COMMERICAL REAL ESTATE CONTRACTS. There is a growing tendency toward self-help in the legal arena, particularly when it comes to matters like drafting contracts. Maybe you’ve purchased or sold commercial real estate before, and have a similar contract on hand. Or maybe you’ve found a place to download a template contract, or a service that will allow you to fill in certain details and will spit out a completed contract for a relatively low price. Unless you have extensive knowledge of the intricacies of real estate law, attempting to create a commercial real estate contract on your own is very risky. An experienced lawyer doesn’t just fill in the blanks–they anticipate issues you may not have considered, ask questions and advise you as to provisions that should be included in or removed from the lease and exactly what those provisions mean for you.

PARTNERSHIPS AND OPERATING AGREEMENTS. When you’re entering into a partnership to develop real estate or otherwise operating commercial real estate, it’s imperative that you consider and enter into an agreement with regard to every possible eventuality. But, every venture is different, and it can be difficult to account for all possible outcomes. We have the experience necessary to ensure that your partnership or operating agreement fully protects your interests, and that you understand your rights and obligations under the agreement before your project gets underway.

A commercial real estate transaction can be a minefield. Local, state, and federal laws may come into play, along with complex contractual terms and the need to provide for multiple possible contingencies. Anyone entering into a commercial transaction, whether that transaction involves the sale of real estate, the purchase of foreclosure properties, the transfer of a real estate portfolio, or some other aspect, should have an experienced lawyer on the team.

Don’t take chances with something as costly and significant as a commercial real estate transaction. We are here to offer you support and expertise, to ensure that your transaction proceeds as smoothly as possible, and that your interests are protected. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can work together to make your transaction a success!

Preparing an Estate Inventory and Appraisement

If you've been appointed Personal Representative of an estate, you will need to thoroughly understand the scope of the decedent’s assets and debts so that you can prepare for the administration of the estate and the distribution of assets. Afterwards, you will need to estimate the value of each asset and determine the way in which the asset is owned, which will affect the process of transferring it. Even if you have a general sense of the assets involved in an estate, you should take the time to investigate whether there may be additional assets of which you are unaware. You can look in safe deposit boxes or likely hiding places in the decedent’s home, consult their friends or family members, and review key documents in the decedent’s financial papers, such as bank statements, tax returns, and investment records.

Probate requires preparing a formal inventory. You should also maintain a worksheet that lists assets for your own reference, even assets that do not need to go through probate.

REAL ESTATE, BANK ACCOUNTS, AND VEHICLES. With regard to real estate owned by the decedent, you will want to provide the address and a description of the property. For bank accounts, you will want to list the relevant bank holding the account, as well as the account number and the amount in the account at the time of the decedent’s death. If the decedent owned any vehicles, including not only cars but also boats and other vehicles, you should list the make, model, and year of the vehicle as well as its identification number.

STOCKS AND BONDS. Many people leave substantial amounts of securities to their loved ones. The inventory should include the number of shares of each type of stock, the name of the corporation, and the name of the exchange on which the stock is traded. Meanwhile, you should note the total gross amount of a bond, the name of the entity that issued it, the interest rate on the bond, and its maturity date.

LIFE INSURANCE AND RETIREMENT PLANS. For life insurance policies, you will want to list the company providing the policy, the policy number, the policyholder’s name, the type of coverage provided, and the primary and any alternate beneficiaries. You should record the amount in any retirement plan, as well as the account number and the company responsible for managing the account.

WAGES AND BUSINESS INTERESTS. You should estimate any unpaid wages, commissions, and other benefits of employment that the decedent may have been owed from their employer. If they owned a business, you will want to note the name of the business and the type of form that it took, such as a partnership, LLC, corporation, or sole proprietorship. For businesses operated with others, you will want to find more information about the ownership structure. If the decedent invested in a limited partnership, you should get a statement from the partnership on the value of the decedent’s investment.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. A decedent may have had intangible assets, such as a patent on an invention or a copyright on a book. You should make note of any patents, copyright registrations, or contracts with businesses regarding intellectual property.

DEBTS AND JUDGMENTS. If the decedent loaned money to someone else or won a judgment in court, their estate has the right to collect repayment on the loan or the proceeds of the judgment. You should keep track of any promissory notes or court documents indicating a verdict or settlement in the decedent’s favor.

If you're in charge of administering a loved one's estate and need help preparing the estate inventory, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help

Estate Planning For Families with Young Children

When you're busy raising young children, estate planning is probably not at the top of your priority list. But all families, especially those with young children, should have a basic estate plan in place. If something unfortunate were to happen, your family would be grateful that you took the time to put a plan together. Here are some things to keep in mind as you create an estate plan for your family:

1. CHOOSE GUARDIANS FOR YOUR CHILDREN. As a parent of a young child or children, the number one reason why you need an estate plan—primarily a Will—is to name who will take care of your kids if both you and the other parent pass away. If you don’t, the court will appoint a guardian. This person is usually a family member (or other capable friend), but which person? Instead of leaving it to the court to decide among family members, make the decision yourself.

If you are a single parent, it is even more important to have these decisions made as soon as possible and documented in a Will.

Many parents disagree about who they would like to raise their child. Maybe one parent thinks a grandparent would be perfect and the other parent disagrees. Or you might think of a perfect person, but they aren't ready for the responsibility. It’s better to figure all of that out now than to leave such an important decision up to a stranger.

Once you narrow down the choices, make sure to ask the potential guardian if they would be willing to take on the role.

2. MAKE YOUR WISHES KNOWN WITH A WILL AND A "LIVING WILL." A Will does more than appoint guardians for minor or dependent children. A Will also outlines exactly how you’d like to distribute your property. If you don’t have a Will, state law will decide, and it might not be to your liking.

In some states, property is split equally between a spouse and the children. If you have two children, your spouse would only receive one-third of the estate. They might need more than that to take care of everything. In this case, the portions left to the children would be difficult to access until they reached the age of majority.

Another basic estate planning document everyone needs is a "Living Will." This document lets you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care if you become incapacitated. This covers things like if you are in a coma, pain management, breathing resuscitation, and organ donation. Instead of leaving the responsibility of such a decision to a grieving loved one, specify your wishes now.

3. CONSIDER WHO WILL MANAGE YOUR CHILDREN'S FINANCES. When naming a guardian for your children, you’ll also want to consider who will manage the money and property for the children until they are reach the age of majority. This person can be the same person as the guardian, but it doesn’t have to be. If your sister is wonderful with your kids, but stinks at money management, that’s OK! You can appoint her as the guardian and appoint someone else as the trustee of your children’s money. If you don’t appoint a financial trustee, the courts will appoint a person on your behalf.

You might also want to consider establishing a trust to manage your children’s inheritance more effectively. This can reduce costs when settling an estate, and it’s easier to specify exactly how you’d like your assets distributed for your children.

4. CHOOSE A PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR YOUR ESTATE. You’ll also want to specify who will perform the mechanics of winding down your estate. This person, called a Personal Representative, will help distribute the property according to your Will, close down bank accounts, pay down debts, sell property if needed and so on. Once again, if you don’t appoint this person, the courts will decide for you.

5. NAME THE RIGHT BENEFICIARIES. Beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts take precedence over what’s listed in a Will. So if you’d like your assets to go to your spouse or to your children, you’ll want to make sure you name the right beneficiaries.

Know that you shouldn’t list your minor children directly as contingent beneficiaries as they can’t own property directly until the age of majority. You’ll want to the name the trust that will hold the assets for them until they’re older.

6. APPOINT SOMEONE TO MAKE FINANCIAL AND HEALTH DECISIONS IF YOU CAN'T. Estate planning isn’t just thinking about what to do when you die. It’s also important to have documents in place that help loved ones know what to do if you become unable to make your decisions yourself. A durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney appoint a person to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. These duties including doing simple things like paying your bills to making sure your wishes are carried out according to your Living Will if necessary.

7. GET LIFE INSURANCE. One crucial part of protecting your family after you’re gone is to make sure that they will have enough money to pay the bills after you’re gone. If you have dependent children, you need life insurance. Term life insurance is often inexpensive for young parents. You’ll want enough to cover any debts and funeral costs. Also consider how much money is needed for a transition period, living expenses, and future large costs like college.

8. REVIEW AND UPDATE YOUR ESTATE PLAN PERIODICALLY. Just as your family changes over time, so should your estate plan. Federal and state laws might change. You might expand your family, get divorced, get married, or a guardian or executor might pass away. Check in on your Will every few years to make sure it still reflects your wishes.

If you have estate planning questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

When should you hire a lawyer to represent you in your personal injury claim?

If you've been in an auto collision, you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you because you suffered serious injuries, or the legal rules implicated by your personal injury claim are highly complex. Sometimes, the insurance company refuses to settle in good faith. If any of the following apply to you, you should contact an experienced lawyer right away.

(1) YOU SUFFERED LONG-TERM OR PERMANENT INJURIES. If you sustained serious injuries in a collision that will require long-term care or left you with permanent disabilities, you should hire a lawyer immediately. An experienced lawyer can calculate how much your injuries are worth. Moreover, figuring out how your injuries will impact your earning capacity over time can be difficult and generally requires expert assistance. To get the most out of your personal injury claim or lawsuit, you need a lawyer who can pursue all available forms of compensation for your injuries and other losses.

(2) YOU SUFFERED SEVERE INJURIES. The amount of compensation you ultimately receive for your injuries largely depends on how severe your injuries are. Insurance companies measure the severity of your injuries by the type of injuries you sustained, the amount of your medical bills you incurred, and the length of your recovery time. As the amount of your potential compensation increases, the more likely you are to reach the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy. If this is the case, the insurance company may only be able to pay you a fraction of what you deserve. In these types of cases, you should hire a lawyer to make sure you receive the total amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

(3) THERE ARE MULTIPLE PARTIES INVOLVED OR LIABILITY IS NOT CLEAR. If you were involved in a collision where multiple parties may be liable for your injuries, you should contact a lawyer. When multiple drivers are involved in a collision, dealing with insurance companies can be very complicated. Because several people may have been injured, there may not be as much settlement money to go around. You could also be the subject of insurance claims from the other parties, ultimately having your settlement offer decreased or reduced to nothing because of your proportional fault for the accident.

You should always contact a lawyer if you have been injured in a collision and may be partially at-fault for the crash. A lawyer can help protect you against counterclaims and cross-claims by the other parties who were involved in the accident.

(4) THE INSURANCE COMPANY REFUSES TO PAY OR ENGAGES IN BAD FAITH TACTICS. Sometimes, insurance companies simply refuse to make a fair settlement offer or refuse to make any offer at all. If you are unable to secure a fair settlement offer from the at-fault party’s insurance company on your own, or negotiations with the insurance company have broken down, you should contact a lawyer right away.

There is also a chance that the insurance company is engaged in bad faith insurance tactics. In that case, you will need assistance from a lawyer who has experience litigating bad faith insurance claims.

If any of these situations apply to you or a member of your family, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can help.

Representing Clients in the Restaurant, Bar, and Hospitality Industries

We represent numerous restaurants and bars and have been deeply involved in the challenges of the restaurant, liquor, and hospitality industries from a business and legal perspective. The owners of restaurants, bars, clubs, and catering companies have unique challenges. Many are family-owned businesses that have the complexity of a much larger enterprise. Many are owned by restaurant-savvy individuals who are not experienced in the legal and regulatory world. And with ever-shrinking margins, many simply cannot afford expensive lawyers to help them.

If you are contemplating starting or buying a business in the bar or restaurant industry, or if you are an established business who just wants a lawyer to advise you regarding your legal issues, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Duties of the Personal Representative (Executor) of an Estate

If you've been named Personal Representative of someone's estate (formerly called the Executor or Executrix), your duties will include:

* LOCATING AND SAFEGUARDING THE PROBATE ASSETS. These assets are property that have no other way of passing to a living individual. Life insurance and certain retirement accounts with beneficiary designations pass directly to beneficiaries by operation of law, so they would not be included in the probate estate.

* OBTAINING DATE OF DEATH VALUES FOR THE ESTATE'S ASSETS. This might include ordering appraisals of things like real estate and business interests.

* OBTAINING DATE OF DEATH VALUES FOR NONPROBATE ASSETS. If it appears that the estate will owe estate taxes, values for these assets must be set as well. As of 2019, only gross estates with values of more than $11.4 million are subject to federal estate taxes and only those with gross values of more than $2,193 million are subject to Washington State inheritance tax. The gross taxable estate is the total value of all the decedent owns, both probate assets and property that passes directly to a living beneficiary.

* IDENTIFYING CREDITORS AND PAYING DEBTS. This typically includes running a newspaper notice to alert all companies and individuals to whom the decedent might owe money that a probate is pending and they can then make claims to the estate for what they're owed. The Personal Representative should also send written notices directly to all creditors they can identify and locate.

* PREPARING AND FILING TAX RETURNS. This will include the decedent's final personal income tax returns for the last year of their life, if applicable. If the estate is significantly large, the PR will also prepare the estate tax returns.

* PAYING THE ONGOING EXPENSES OF ADMINISTERING THE ESTATE. The decedent's debts, taxes, and the operating expenses of the estate must be paid before probate closes. This might require that your personal representative sell or liquidate assets to raise the cash.

* DISTRIBUTE THE BALANCE OF THE ESTATE TO THE BENEFICIARIES. This typically requires preparing an inventory and an accounting and obtaining receipts to the be filed with the court.

As you can see, serving as a Personal Representative can be a big responsibility and is often a time-consuming burden. If you've been named as PR of someone's estate and have questions or need legal representation, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today.

Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Powers of Attorney for Your Kids Away at College

College is a time of great change for both parents and their kids. Kids are dealing with being on their own for the first time and parents may be on their own for the first time in a long while now that the kids are off to school.

Because people are so intimately involved with raising their children, it’s tempting to see them as just that—children. But in the eyes of the law, the apron strings get cut the minute they turn 18. Once they cross that threshold into adulthood, they are no longer under your agency when it comes to matters both big and small, particularly issues related to emergency health care. That’s why an open understanding with your child is key. You’ve got to communicate to them why you and they need to sign certain key documents together

There are three forms that parents and college students need to fill out. (Don’t worry if your student is already on campus and you haven’t filled these out yet. Just put it on your to-do list and get it done as soon as you can.)

(1) HIPAA AUTHORIZATION. Ever tried to get an update about a loved one in the hospital over the phone when there’s been a sudden medical issue? If so, you know it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get the info you need if you’re not authorized. That’s because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What you need to cut through the red tape is a HIPAA Authorization. This document lets a patient (your college student) designate certain family members, friends, and others that they want to be apprised of their medical info during treatment. Obviously, your student should fill this out before they need it during a medical emergency. The HIPAA Authorization becomes extremely important if your child is living away at school and gets involved in an accident or has a medical emergency, because you’re not getting any info over the phone even though you’re their parent—unless you fill out this form.

(2) HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A health care power of attorney is a legal document that names you as the parent as an “agent” for your college student. What this means is that if your child becomes medically incapacitated in some way, you have the ability to make informed medical decisions on their behalf. This document can name you as the sole point of contact and decision-maker as you decide the best course of action with the doctors.

(3) DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY. A medical power of attorney is strictly for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated. A general durable power of attorney, however, covers financial decisions. This document allows a person (in this case, your college student) to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial and legal decisions and to make financial transactions on their behalf. Those transactions can include managing bank accounts, paying bills, filing taxes, applying for government benefits and dealing with a landlord.

If you have questions about preparing legal documents for your adult children who are off to school, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can help.

All Clients Want a "Good Lawyer" and All Lawyers Want "Good Clients"

If you've been hurt in an auto collision, you want to make sure you end up with a "good" lawyer for you and your case. And that expectation can work both ways. Every lawyer wants a "good client." But what is a "good client," and how much of being a "good client" is actually within the client's control?

In a nutshell, a good client does whatever is necessary in order to ensure that the case goes as smoothly as possible, and that the best outcome (a fair personal injury settlement, or a win in court) can be reached. That means:

1. RESPOND TO YOUR LAWYER. Clients get pretty upset when their lawyer doesn’t return phone calls. Lawyers feel the same way. If you don’t return your lawyer’s phone calls, emails, or letters promptly, you're not just wasting your lawyer's time, you could also be hurting your case.

2. ATTEND ALL OF YOUR MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS. Your health care provider will note any appointment that you miss, and, if you miss too many, the insurance adjuster (or the jury) is going to assume that you must not have been hurt as badly as you claim. This will cost you and your lawyer money. Be sure to keep all of your appointments.

3. COOPERATE IN THE DISCOVERY PROCESS. If you end up filing a lawsuit, the defendant will send your lawyer written questions called interrogatories, as well as document requests. Your lawyer will send these on to you. You will need to promptly answer the interrogatories and provide your lawyer with the requested documents, or your case could be dismissed. Help your lawyer, and help yourself. Respond to all discovery as quickly as you can.

Practice for your deposition. Your deposition is a very important step in your case. Your lawyer is there to help you prepare, to offer guidance during the proceedings, and even step in if the other side is taking a questionable approach. Follow your lawyer's advice and recommendations.

4. DON'T (ALWAYS) BLAME YOUR LAWYER. Clients who are annoyed that their case isn’t going well will often turn on their lawyer and say that it must be the lawyer’s fault.

Some things are indeed a lawyer’s fault, and any client needs to be attuned to that. But some problems that arise in personal injury cases are the client’s fault, and other obstacles are no one’s fault. Some personal injury cases just aren’t that strong (meaning there's little or no chance of reaching a favorable outcome). Don’t blame the messenger if your lawyer brings bad news. It's not going to help your case.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in an account collision, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can help.

Hiring a Lawyer for Your Business Startup

As a small business owner there can be an overwhelming amount of legalities, regulations, and compliance standards that can get in your way of doing business. One of the best things you can do to mitigate any legal problems is hire a lawyer for a business startup. That’s why we desire to be your partner in understanding and breaking down these barriers, so you can focus on the success of your business.

Business law encompasses all the laws that dictate how you form and run your business. This includes laws that govern how you start or buy a business, how you manage a business, and how you exit a business, whether you close or sell. Because business laws establish all the rules a business should follow, it is important that you are informed and in compliance with new and existing laws on a state and federal level, as well as administrative regulations. When you have a lawyer for a business startup, you can be sure that your business is set up the right way.

We offer a complete business boutique experience beginning with a consultation that concerns the start-up and formation of a business through operations, maintenance, and compliance. We continue to support our clients as processes arise such as the growth and sale of the business.

If you're a small business owner and have questions about how we can be of service, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Tips for Avoiding Family Fights During Administration of a Loved One's Estate

When you've been named Personal Representative of a loved one's estate, you can’t control family fights over inheritance, or insulate yourself from potential blowback from unhappy family members. What you can do is communicate early and often. Here are some tips:

TELL EVERYONE THE RULES. Let family members know that there are going to be some decisions that require collaboration. They will have the opportunity to provide input at that time. But there are also going to be decisions that you as Personal Representative will have to make on your own, and you’ll keep them informed of those, too.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you know from the outset that family dynamics could complicate probate, consider bringing in an objective third party to help mediate. It doesn’t have to be a lawyer, just someone who can remain neutral and help resolve family fights over inheritance with patience and detachment.

DON'T ALLOW THE PROCESS TO CONSUME YOU. Probably the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself through this difficult and emotional process. Set parameters around the time that you'll focus on probate issues, and then respect those boundaries so you can also keep up with the rest of your life.

At the end of the day, stuff is just stuff. Remember, the most valuable part of any inheritance is the family bond that a beloved parent leaves behind.

If you're experiencing family disputes over an estate or if you have questions about the probate process in general, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Estate Planning in Second Marriages vs. First Marriages - There's a Difference!

In first marriages, the couple generally has the same goals when it comes to their estate planning: take care of the surviving spouse for as long as he or she lives, then whatever is left will go to the children. They may own many of their assets jointly and, at the death of the first spouse, more than likely everything will go to the surviving spouse just as they had planned.

But second marriages (after divorce or death of the first spouse) are different. There may be your children, my children, and sometimes our children. Each of you probably has assets that you brought into this marriage, and you want those to go to your own children after you die. At the same time, you probably want to make sure your surviving spouse will have enough to live on should you die first.

More than likely, the estate planning methods you relied upon in your first marriage will not work now. For example, let’s say you add your new spouse’s name on the title of your home and you own it as joint tenants with right of survivorship. If you die first, your share immediately transfers to your spouse, who now has complete ownership of your home. They can do whatever they want with it now, regardless of what your Will or Trust says. They can leave it to their own children and completely disinherit yours.

There are similar problems with beneficiary designations. Many people name their spouse as beneficiary of their life insurance, IRAs and other tax-deferred plans to provide for their spouse should they die first. But this can be a problem with second marriages because your spouse-beneficiary can name anyone he/she wants as new beneficiaries to inherit the proceeds, bypassing your children. Promises may be made now to include them, but promises can be broken after you are gone.

Other Considerations:

* If each of you has considerable assets, you may want to keep your assets and your estate planning separate. If there will be a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, be sure to have it reviewed by your estate planning lawyer (before signing).
* If your spouse has considerably fewer assets than you do, you can provide for him/her until death or remarriage, then have the remaining assets distributed to your children. This is often accomplished through a life estate or what is referred to as a QTIP trust.
* If your new spouse is much younger than you are, your children may be concerned that he/she is only after your money. These feelings may subside as the marriage lengthens. But if your spouse is closer in age to your children than to you, they may be wondering if they will ever receive their inheritance from you. Consider giving them some of their inheritance upon your death (e.g., though life insurance), then the rest at your spouse’s death or remarriage.
* If your new spouse is much younger than you are, your children may be concerned that he/she is only after your money. These feelings may subside as the marriage lengthens. But if your spouse is closer in age to your children than to you, they may be wondering if they will ever receive their inheritance from you. Consider giving them some of their inheritance upon your death (e.g., though life insurance), then the rest at your spouse’s death or remarriage.
* Naming a Trust as beneficiary for your life insurance policies and tax-deferred plans is often a good choice for second marriages. This will allow you to keep control over how and to whom the proceeds are distributed. You can provide your spouse with lifetime income, yet keep control over the rest of the proceeds. Keeping the proceeds in a Trust will also protect them from irresponsible spending, creditors, predators, divorce, remarriage and even estate taxes, if done properly.
* Be sure to include planning for disability and long-term care. If one spouse becomes ill and Medicaid assistance is needed, the combined assets of the couple will be considered “available assets” to pay for the care of the ill spouse. Long-term care insurance may be needed to protect the assets of one or both spouses.
* Discuss your individual estate planning goals together. If they are similar, then your task may be somewhat easy. But if they are considerably different, consider having separate lawyers.

You want to do the right thing for everyone involved: yourself, your spouse, your children, your spouse’s children. Take the time to consider this from everyone’s point of view. An experienced estate planning lawyer will be able to advise you and work with both of you to create a plan that will do exactly what you want it to do.

If you have estate planning questions, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment today. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors.

We have a long history of representing injured people and their survivors. If you've been hurt in an auto collision that wasn't your fault, give us a call today. We'll investigate the facts of the case, gather and analyze your medical records and wage loss records, deal with the insurance company for you, advise you on what we think is a fair value for your damages to get your compensated, and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If we can't come to an agreement with the insurance company, we'll bring a lawsuit and litigate your claim in front of a judge and jury.

If you, a friend, family member, neighbor, or co-worker has been injured in a car crash, we can help. Give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment.

Representing family-owned businesses means providing legal advice that furthers company objectives while also accomodating family estate planning goals.

We represent numerous family-owned businesses. We recognize the need to provide legal advice that furthers the strategic objectives of the company while simultaneously accommodating the personnel, familial, and estate planning goals of the company's owners. Our toolkit includes the tools of the business organizational advisor (deep familiarity with the alternative legal frameworks for organizing an enterprise, including corporations and limited liability companies) and of the estate planner (knowledge of the means by which ownership and management succession can be effected, which includes trust law and may include mergers and acquisitions, and the tax consequences of each succession alternative).

The key challenge in representing a family business law is to structure an environment in which family goals and interests and the company's goals are mutually reinforcing. This requires empathy and creativity, particularly the ability to translate essentially non-legal concepts such as stewardship into legal script, all in a tax-efficient manner.

If you are part of a family-owned business and need legal representation, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.

Probate, Trust, and Estate Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

When we meet with estate planning clients, you'd be amazed how many times we hear something like, "Oh, no, my children get along so well. They won't fight when I'm gone, they'll all be on the same page and will all agree on everything." We just smile and nod and say, "Well, I hope you're right, that would fantastic. But just in case, let's do this..."

Death and money, y'know? It's a stressful and emotional time. Family relationships can get strained after the death of a loved one and family tensions can reach a boiling point during the estate distribution. All of this can lead to probate litigation and the need for dispute resolution. We understand that in certain cases, litigation is the only method of resolution and we will not hesitate to advocate strongly on our clients' behalves in court.

For many reasons, probate, trust, and estate litigation can be complex. We will prepare you by advising you on pre-litigation strategies, analyzing potential risk, as well as reviewing documents. We then apply creative problem solving to secure a favorable resolution for you.

Probate, trust, and estate litigation can include disputes regarding contested Wills, improper disbursement of estates, issues regarding the personal representative or trustee, Trust litigation, and claims against fiduciaries.

However, we are also strong proponents of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and legal solutions that include mediation. Whenever possible, we encourage our clients to amicably and respectfully resolve their estate disputes. The Washington Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) allows for resolution of disputes regarding trusts and estates through out-of-court processes such as mediation, arbitration, and agreement. We have significant experience representing heirs and beneficiaries as well as defending estates in TEDRA actions. Call us at 253.858.5434 today to see how we can help you.