Like clockwork every year, the day after school starts, our phones at LayRoots start ringing off the hook. Parents emerging from the “summer fog” as one client put it, are ready to get estate planning off the to-do list.

Many of these parents want to know our rates. They ask some variation of “what do you charge for [blank]?” Any decent estate planning attorney hates this question due to the ol’ lawyer motto…it depends.

And I get it…people want to make a budget and have an idea of what type of investment they are getting ready to shell out. I believe the reason most people ask about cost is that it is something they can understand. Most people don’t know enough about the details of estate planning to compare anything but the dollar bills.

Here are some fun analogies to drive home the point.

If you are old enough to remember working with travel agents, imagine calling one up and asking “how much is a plane ticket?”
They’d need a lot more information to give you a quote like where you want to go? Do you want to fly first, business or coach? Do you want a direct flight or do you want to save $100 by doing a couple of connecting flights?

All of those things factor into a quote for a plane ticket. And what if you were traveling from Seattle to Tacoma? The agent would tell you you don’t need a place ticket. Take a bus, my friend!

My latest favorite is to imagine I’m selling some cars. Here it goes:

“How much are your cars?” I’ve got one for $10,000 and one for $20,000.

“Ahh…well I saw one one the internet for $300.”

Right!? If you called a car dealership and all they told you was price, you’d probably have a bunch of follow up questions. What brand? How many miles? Air brakes? 249 point safety inspection? Warranty? Free oil changes for life? Show me the CARFAX!

You would need to have a lot of information to understand the value of the three different cars. Maybe you don’t want to buy a 1973 (exploding) Ford Pinto for $300. Maybe you live in Seattle and the $10,000 car is a 10-year-old Subaru with 200,000 miles (is there no respect for Blue Book Value here!?). Maybe you want to shell out $20,000 for a great deal on a Volvo with the highest safety ratings in business.

As you see, it takes a lot of information to understand the value you receive for your dollars. Estate planning might initially all seem the same, but there is a world of difference depending on what your goals and intentions are. Going beyond the sticker price will let you know whether you are getting an old Ford Pinto or a safe Volvo to drive your family to Tacoma.

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya.


Reviewing your estate plan

I’m a big advocate of regularly checking up on your estate plan. I recommend at least every 3 years or after any major life event like a death or divorce. There’s a reason we offer free, ongoing reviews for our clients and that’s because you want your estate plan to work for you.

There is a common belief that you’re all set once you have your estate planning checked off the to-do list. In fact many attorneys never Read More

Death in Absentia

Part of the fun of being an estate planning attorney is when people ask you interesting questions. I was recently asked what would happen if somebody disappeared on an African safari. Sure…a pretty random question for most people, but this client saw a friend go through this process after a loved one disappeared and never returned. I had no idea about the actual process, but was able to agree it would involves courts and lots of time. This friend spent about 10 years trying to resolve the matter. That’s a long time!

When you don’t know something obviously you go straight to Wikipedia the law library and crack the books. Read More

Another Privacy Rant

Ok maybe I’ve never unleashed a rant about privacy on this website…but they’re coming! And if you’ve spent any time around me in person, you’ve probably heard my complaints about privacy.

This seems like a timely rant as we have gotten (ANOTHER) glimpse behind the curtains of US government surveillance. Although it’s been known for quite some time that the government has and does collect massive amounts of data on citizens and non-citizens alike. The current revelation is that the CIA (allegedly) has the ability to monitor what was believed to be encrypted communication through apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, etc. Putting aside why I think that is terrible (and the dumb argument of “if you’ve got nothing to hide…”), I’m also concerned by Read More

Burial at Sea and other creative ideas

In the last post I wrote about how it’s often a bummer for clients to plan for their final disposition. Some people take it in stride and have some creative thoughts for how their family can say goodbye. I often share a story about a burial at sea for those who are getting creative.

Spreading ashes (or a body) can be illegal in certain places. Take the Florida man, for example, who wanted his loved ones to bury him at sea and then have a fishing party after sending his remains overboard. When the man died, his family dutifully packed him in dry ice and drove down to Daytona beach to charter a boat. They motored a few miles from shore, tossed him in the ocean, and then fished for a while in his memory. I, for one, love this plan and love the idea of burial at sea (so much so I’ve asked my wife to chuck me in the Pacific when I die).

No Cement Shoes

This man’s plan did not go so well. After the burial at sea, his body resurfaced and a fisherman discovered the floating corpse. The police came and opened a murder investigation! Detectives solved the case when they found his obituary indicating his planned “burial at sea.” It turns out having a burial at sea is highly regulated to avoid this exact scenario. Read more about the story here.

So if you’re thinking of a Viking funeral, burial at sea, or even a Sky Burial, make sure you aren’t going to turn your loved ones into criminals for carrying out your wishes!

Colin Ley is a Seattle estate planning attorney. He is also the co-founder of LayRoots along with his wife, Shreya (who will likely opt out of Colin’s burial-at-sea demands). 

Final Disposition Instructions

For most people, final disposition instructions are a real bummer to think about. Your final disposition instructions are basically what you want people to do with your body after you die. Nobody likes to think they will die! Doing some planning on what to do with your remains can help make things easy on your loved ones, who no doubt will be really sad you’re gone. Read More

In Trust We Trust (a.k.a. where i$ my money!?)

As an estate planning attorney, people often ask me what rights they have when it comes to trust payments. People asking these questions are concerned whether they are receiving enough distributions (nobody has complained yet about receiving too much). Or they are concerned that the trust funds are being mismanaged by the trustee (the person, or company, who runs the trust). Many times, strained family dynamics add to the conflict and confusion. Read More

Healthcare Directives

As part of any estate planning package we offer at LayRoots, we work with our clients on advanced healthcare directives. Part of that planning process involves deciding whether a person wants to remain on life support after doctors decide there is no hope of recovery (i.e. when brain dead). I recently had a client who wanted to remain on life support for an extended period of time, unless it was a financial burden for her loved ones. Having never investigated the costs of long-term life support care, I was curious. Read More

Naming Guardians For Your Children as a Single Parent

At LayRoots we like to host a number of Guardian Nomination Workshops. We help parents choose and document legal guardians for their children…just in case something happens to them. One of the most common questions we get is what should a parent do if he or she has separated from his/her co-parent. Put another way, what do you do if each parent wants different guardians for the children? Read More

Does a living trust protect assets from creditors?

All trusts are not created equal. A living trust, or revocable living trust, is one of the most common trusts utilized by estate planning attorneys. It’s a great way to avoid the hassles of probate, but will the assets inside of the living trust be protected from creditors? Check out the video to learn more! Read More

One of the most common questions I receive is about protecting home equity. It makes sense as for many people, a home is one of the most valuable assets they own. Also, living in the Seattle area, the real estate market has been growing at an incredible rate! Home owners are seeing their equity sky rocket and in turn get a bit nervous about how to protect that equity from lawsuits and creditors. Check out the video to learn about how much equity is protected by state law and hear what common mistakes home owners often make. Read More

Asset protection planning involves the application of many different areas of law. The development of a comprehensive asset protection plan may involve family law, tax law, trust laws, business planning laws, state and federal bankruptcy laws, and on and on. The areas of law intersect in different ways depending on each individual’s situation and planning goals. In addition, to develop an effective plan to protect your wealth and assets from lawsuits, divorces, and creditors, you’ll benefit from working with an attorney who is versed in the practice of asset protection. Read More

Talking about death


I caught a great story about advanced healthcare directives on NPR’s Planet Money Podcast. The story covers a town in Wisconsin where 96% of residents have planned for their death. The U.S. average is around 30%. Even among people diagnosed with major illnesses, only about half of them have planned for their deaths. Read More

Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT)

In my previous video I talked about avoiding Washington estate taxes by gifting away assets if your net worth falls between $2-$5.45 million. Now many people don’t like the idea of giving away and losing control of their assets. That’s where a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust comes in. This type of asset protection trust gives you some additional options so the gifted assets are not lost in divorce or to creditors. Watch the video below for some information on these “SLATs.” Read More

Balancing Washington and Federal Estate Taxes

I recently had a conversation with a family interested in planning to avoid Washington estate taxes. This estate tax is also known as transfer tax or death tax. There is a currently a federal estate tax around $5.5 million and Washington estate taxes for estates above $2 million. People falling in between the $2-$5.5 million have an opportunity to avoid the Washington estate tax if some proper planning is put into place. Check out the video below for more. Read More