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Estate Planning

If anyone in Seattle wants to recommend a lawyer for estate planning, drop me a line or mention them in the comments. I need to get a will and a living will, and would prefer not to pay so much that there's nothing left to bequeath. Suggestions for estate planning software packages are also welcomed, thanks.

Posted on July 19, 2005 to Seattle


Can't help you with a recommendation, sorry. However, as a lawyer, I REALLY wouldn't use any estate planning software -- wills & estate laws vary from state to state, and changes happen so fast, that the software may not keep up.

If you do find that some software is way to irresistible, however, then AT THE VERY LEAST be sure to get the latest version, and the version specifically for Washington State -- but even then, I wouldn't trust it. We lawyers are a tricky bunch -- you never know what the legislators of your state have pulled off at the last minute, right after the release of the SW.

JMHO. Good luck!


Posted by: Karen on July 19, 2005 4:17 PM

Can't make any recommendations about Great Northwesternly located Estate Lawyers either. But I will recommend that you look at the same time for a Financial Planner (find a certified one!) to help you out with your investments. Help you to build an estate worth planning around! Once you have a portfolio of investment accounts, you'll need to update your wills n such to reflect those items' beneficiaries. You'll want to do the investment planning in parallel as the estate planning so you won't have to pay extra to have the lawyers redraft your wills later.

Don't scoff at the idea of having an investment portfolio just because you may not have much in the way of investments quite yet. Once you and the Queen change jobs, you'll likely have 401k accounts to roll into IRAs, if you don't already. Those can add up and need taking care of.

Best of luck!

Posted by: hdc on July 19, 2005 7:33 PM

From http://www.afip.org/Departments/legalmed/jnrm2000/directives.htm :

"Living wills are activated only under extreme or restrictive circumstances, such as terminal illnesses, comas, and persistent vegetative states. A durable power of attorney for health care can be activated whenever the patient is unable to participate in the decision-making process."

The better document is a Healthcare Power of Attorney - where you designate an agent to carry out your wishes, and is usually witnessed and notarized. It does not usually require the assistance of a lawyer. You can find forms on the internet.
Make sure you sit down with your agent and tell them what you'd want in certain circumstances: would you want a feeding tube inserted if you were comatose? What about inserting it and then removing it after a period of time? If you had a poor prognosis, would you want to be resuscitated?
It gets complex, but it's good if someone knows your general wishes.

I posted about this awhile back:



Posted by: geena on July 19, 2005 7:36 PM

Bill Handel has a law show on L.A. radio, Saturday mornings (handelonthelaw.com). He recommends www.legalzoom.com. I haven't tried them and I'm sure they pay him, but it's worth a look.

Posted by: lisa on July 19, 2005 8:39 PM

i'll chime in for george holzapfel at lasher/holzapfel (http://www.lasher.com/attorneys_detail.asp?id=57). a couple friends of mine are with george as well.

i did my estate planning with him. while it was pricey ($400?), i was convinced that he had given me all the right choices and had put together exactly what i wanted.

for some reason, i've always been willing to spend too much on legal counsel if i feel that they know what they're doing.

Posted by: bruceo on July 19, 2005 9:06 PM

ok, i don't know about estate lawyers. or the software to replace them.

but was reading the comments before mine. my question is, if the software can't keep up, how does a written piece of paper do so?

just wondering.

Posted by: stacie on July 19, 2005 9:09 PM

Hmmm...well, I don't know who TO recommend...but I can tell you not to use the Davis Wright Tremaine firm. Sure, it's one of the largest and "best"...but we used a junior partner to help us draft our will (it's not that complicated - we don't have kids yet) and we're already over $2,500. And it's not even finished. Ugh. If we find someone good - I'll let you know. And if YOU find someone good...please let me know! :)

Posted by: Suzanne on July 20, 2005 6:51 AM

*don't* use american express financial advisors... bad service.

Posted by: anonymous on July 20, 2005 7:07 AM

i haven't leaved in seattle in ages, so no help with a name.

but i would recommend talking to your banker - most of the larger banks have a trust/private banking department who either have someone on staff who may be able to do it for you or else they may be able to refer you to someone that they use regularly.

Posted by: susannah on July 20, 2005 7:43 AM

I can't recommend anyone but when you do start writing your will remember my name is spelled D.U.A.N.E....

Posted by: Duane on July 20, 2005 7:49 AM

We used Quicken's Willmaker Plus software:


Which for our very simple situation and non-litigious extended families should be just fine.

Posted by: Candace on July 20, 2005 8:08 AM

I would probably recommend www.uslegalforms.com. They have real legal forms for just about anything for about every state. They have wills, power of attorney forms, bill of sale, real estate purchase contracts, lease agreements, etc. I've looked at the one for a will in my state because I also need to do that. I just looked up the form for a will for Married with minor children for the state of Washington, which sounds like the one you're after, and you can get that for $24. It's in the form of an editable PDF, so you can fill in the information in the appropriate areas(it comes with instructions) and then print it out and get it witnessed.

Posted by: Rocky on July 20, 2005 8:33 AM

Even if you do use an attorney, software can be a much cheaper way of getting all the data together ahead of time (vs. going through it at $100+ an hour)

Posted by: Anonymous on July 20, 2005 9:22 AM

I'd recommend Wally:
Wallace E Skidmore Jr

Norton Bldg
Seattle, WA
(206) 624-2650

Posted by: Adam Carter on July 20, 2005 9:47 AM

John Roberts.

Posted by: eugenen on July 20, 2005 10:03 AM

We live in Illinois and used quicken willmaker (whatever the latest addition is), purchased through amazon.com. The program had all the special exceptions for our state and county in the instructions and the documents (including the frightening caveat that if you are female and make a living will, and go into a coma while you're pregnant, the state of IL may fight your and your family's wishes if your living will said to pull the plug).

I think the program is fine for a simple will, but if you were going to do anything crazy like try to set up a trust for the Squirrelly I would go see a real lawyer. If you are nervous, it probably would cost less to have a lawyer review your docs from the program than to have them draw 'em up from scratch.

Posted by: J. on July 20, 2005 10:12 AM

The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Posted by: Mark on July 20, 2005 10:14 AM

George Edensword-Breck did my estate planning several years ago. He used to do work for Senior Rights Assistance and is quite bright. He is in Seattle and Bainbridge Island.

Posted by: anita on July 20, 2005 11:33 AM

First, let's make it clear that most lawyers don't know much when it comes to something specific about a topic like estates or trusts. Especially trusts! Sure there are living trusts and that is about all a lawyer would normally know about. There are all kinds of trusts for holding your assets. The big benefit of a trust is 1) the property in question transfers ownership immediately and 2) it transfers without any public record of who is controlling the trust thus allowing great privacy.

So my take is, use the Quicken Will Maker software. It explains things pretty well for setting up an A/B trust and how to transfer ownership to the trust. Also, putting things in a trust avoids probate and any issues with property transferring.

If done right, your Will will simply tell the courts who gets the Squirelly and all your property will be owned/controlled by the trust. Anything you want can be owned by the trust including that old black leather couch from your bachelor days that the Queen makes you keep in the cellar. Remember, a will is simply your wishes to the courts. Your wishes do not have to be followed and of course can be contested. The last thing you want is your house held up in probate while the Squirrely (presumably much older) has to pay the mortgage and property taxes on a house he may not want, be able to live in or rent.

In closing, this is not rocket science so don't think that an expensive lawyer is required, especially if you don't have a large estate. If you already have a large estate you would not be asking this question. If you stand to inherite large sums, check with your benefactor to see if they already have an estate lawyer. You'll impress them greatly by showing them respect for their choice of lawyers and showing that you are thinking ahead.

Good luck

Posted by: Sean on July 20, 2005 2:17 PM

Sandra Perkins, not of Perkins Coie

Posted by: Beth on July 20, 2005 4:41 PM

Willmaker is very good, and has a lot to offer as far as guidance on issues that differ between states.

Posted by: The Man from Guam on July 20, 2005 5:55 PM

Willmaker seems to be for PCs only. Anyone know of a good program that will run on a Mac (without the need for virtual PC)?

Posted by: Anonymous on July 20, 2005 6:23 PM

Peter Cowles - he's a nice guy with reasonable prices, office in downtown Ballard.


I don't think anybody's mentioned this yet - it's ok to shop around. If red flags go off at the initial meeting, you don't have to stick around.

Phrase to remember: "A man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer."

Posted by: janelle on July 20, 2005 9:19 PM

Husband's a lawyer: the thing to remember about lawyer's fees is that they are negotiable. That's right. It's a competitive market. Don't be a peckerhead about it, but if you look like someone who will be a client for a long time (wills, changes to wills, real estate transactions, etc.), and you're reasonable, it serves them to have you as a happy and returning client.

Also, the one above with the $2500 bill? Ask them to give you a DETAILED bill of the breakdown of charges and then negotiate it down.

Maybe I'm just cheap, but there isn't much in this great big world that isn't negotiable. Just ask.

Posted by: Suzyn on July 20, 2005 9:29 PM

I completely second the no AMEX financial advisors. They take your money and never return your phone calls.

I did learn one useful thing though: I can't retire until I'm 100--if then!

Posted by: miel on July 20, 2005 10:19 PM

Honey, I told you that our neighbor's daughter's ex-husband's new wife's stepson just graduated from online law school.

Posted by: Ian's Mom on July 21, 2005 10:58 AM

I'll second Sandra Perkins
(206) 381-8500
sandraperkins AT seanet DOT com

Beware of software. Washington has an unusual estate tax situation that is probably not dealt with in the nationally marketed software

Posted by: Jonathan on July 21, 2005 9:55 PM

Another vote for George Holzapfel. Very professional, specializes in estate planning. Go to him, you will like him.

Posted by: Louise on July 22, 2005 10:19 AM

Jerry Everard in the old funeral home on Capitol Hill.

Posted by: Anonymous on July 22, 2005 11:14 AM

[Warning: this has nothing to do with wills or estate planning]
Hey, Matthew, I spent some QT on your blog today mostly reading the riotous adventures of you and the Queen in what will become known as the Squirrelly Wars (I read the posts in reverse order, which was funny because I got to watch your son grow younger and younger until he finally disappeared into the womb). This is quality writing, which I'm sure you are already big-headedly aware of, but wanted to throw my kudos on the heaping pile.

I linked to your baby pile today. Just thought you should be aware (and possibly flattered). : )

Posted by: k_sra on July 22, 2005 1:37 PM