Waves of panic rippled through the Northwest this summer after a New York Times article (“The Really Big One”), describing an impending gigantic earthquake, went viral. Our message to you: don’t be scared, prepare!

Below are seven tips from on how to prepare for and survive an earthquake as safely and smoothly as possible.

A small amount of preparation can prevent a world of hurt. We believe this to be true about many areas of life, including estate planning. Taking the time to execute a few estate planning documents ensures that you and your family are prepared for worst case scenarios and will reduce your anxiety during challenging times. Contact us for our help!

Before the next big earthquake we recommend these four steps that will make you, your family, or your workplace better prepared to survive and recover quickly:

Step 1:
Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items.
Secure your space

Step 2:
Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency.
Create a Disaster Plan

Step 3:
Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations.
Organize Disaster Supplies

Step 4:
Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance.
Organize Important Documents

During the next big earthquake, and immediately after, is when your level of preparedness will make a difference in how you and others survive and can respond to emergencies:

Step 5:
Drop, Cover, and Hold On when the earth shakes.
Drop, Cover, and Hold

Step 6:
Improve safety after earthquakes by evacuating if necessary, helping the injured, and preventing further injuries or damage.After the immediate threat of the earthquake has passed, your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow:
Evacuate if Necessary

Step 7:
Restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding community.
Reconnect and Restore


Estate planning is about making your own choices regarding your healthcare and assets before you’re faced with a situation that renders you powerless. Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer, recently made a choice regarding her health the choice to end her own life. After doctors told her in the spring that she had six months to live, Brittany moved to Oregon where the Oregon Death with Dignity Act allows adults with terminal illnesses to end their lives legally. According to People Magazine, Brittany posted a message on Facebook shortly before she died, which reads in part: “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me but would have taken so much more” During her interview with People a month ago, she said “My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control. I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.” She has received both support and criticism for her choice but ultimately what matters is that she had the power to decide. Estate planning grants similar power by allowing individuals to choose their own destiny and prepare for unexpected events that render them unable to communicate their desires. People who execute estate planning documents prior to such events can ensure that their voices are heard and their wishes honored. They can choose what happens to them if they become incapacitated, who may make decisions regarding their healthcare, where their assets end up when they die, who may act as guardian of their children or pets and a wide range of other choices. Estate planning not only protects the decisions of those who sign the documents, but lessens the burden upon their loved ones when those documents become needed for guidance. It gives individuals power over their fate just as the Death with Dignity Act gave Brittany Maynard power over hers.


ANNOUNCEMENT: Estate Planning Presentation On May 20th, 2014, at 5:15pm Ruth Emily Vogel will be making a presentation on Estate Planning at Union Bank in Ballard. The presentation is in conjunction with a business consultant who will speak on the 12 deadly sins of cash flow. If you’d like to attend please contact David Bruder at Union Bank, 206.228-1942, or


Easter is this Sunday, Passover began Monday night, and signs of spring are everywhere. Parents who are divorcing, or married for that matter, struggle with how to share their religious beliefs with their children. When parents have different beliefs the problem is magnified. When parents have different beliefs and then divorce it can be a challenging situation. In ages past, cultural norms would have children follow the father’s religion, or the mother’s religion. When parents divorced then typically the parent with “custody” or the “primary residential parent” was allowed to direct the children’s religious education and experience. That has changed. Now courts are more likely to rule that the children will follow the religious practice of the parent they are currently with. In a religious version of ‘love the one you’re with’ each parent can take the child to their church, or synagogue or pagan festival so long as it is during their residential time with the child. Eventually all children must be allowed to choose their own belief system and religious practice (welcome to the teenage years). As is all co-parenting issue, mutual respect is the key to success.


Call me crazy, but I think the Northwest is the best place on earth to live, work and play. So while I was watching the “Legion of Boom” it occured to me how our whole region deserves recognition. We have natural beauty and resources, diverse economies and a level of caring and teamwork that is unique. Thank you for being part of what makes our region so wonderful!


A ruling by the Washington State Court of Appeals* on September 23rd may drastically change how divorcing parents deal with the issue of child support for college. The court held that if the matter is not resolved in the initial divorce process, but rather is reserved to be dealt with later, then the parent requesting support for college may have to engage in a costly and time consuming process. Currently parents have been able to file a motion to adjust child support but the court ruled that the proper procedure is a Petition for Modification of Child Support. A modification procedure is typically more expensive and time consuming than a motion.
If you have this potential issue in your family law case it would be an excellent idea to immediately review this with your attorney. Delays could cost you the college education support.

*In the Matter of the Marriage of Kelly S. Morris v Gregory Charles Morris, 69430-8-1, Division One Published Opinion


The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has recently been put under the spotlight due to a lawsuit involving child custody. As with other provisions meant to prevent race-related abuses, it can be difficult to know where to draw the line – for example, with various affirmative action measures, as well as the Voting Rights Act which was struck down just last month.

The ICWA was passed in 1978 to protect Native American children from getting removed from their families. This was in response to alarmingly high numbers of Indian children who were taken by both public and private agencies from their homes. A recent case has brought this provision into question.
The case involves a young child, Veronica, who was put up for adoption by her biological mother after the biological father, Dusten Brown, relinquished his parental rights via text message. Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and Veronica is 1.2 percent Cherokee.

Veronica was adopted by a non-indian couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, from Charleston, South Carolina. They raised Veronica until December of 2011, when Brown took custody of her and moved her to Oklahoma. She was 27 months old.
Overturning a vast amount of precedent, the Supreme Court found that Brown did not have the right to take Veronica from her adoptive parents.

Reactions are mixed in regards to what this means for those affected by the act. The Capobiancos, understandably, are thrilled to be getting Veronica back, and expressed hope that the decision will prevent further tragic disruptions of other adoptions. The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation feels that the child’s interests would be best served by staying in a loving home with her biological father.
The executive director for California Indian legal Services, Dorothy Alther feels that the decision is devastating and strips tribes from being able to intervene in parental disputes.

Whatever the impact on future cases, everyone can probably agree that the difficulty of the decision will have the greatest impact on little Veronica – who will once again be uprooted from her home and everything she knows, to live with her first caregivers who have at this point become strangers to her.
The legal world is uncertain, and it is a valuable reminder to us all that in a country that strives for justice, court battles remain risky.


We often receive calls from people who have already been divorced but are having trouble enforcing the terms of the divorce or property settlement agreement. Sometimes, after an agreement has been made or a court has issued an order, an ex-spouse decides not to obey the final order or agreement. The result is that one party may become burdened with a community debt that is not being paid as agreed or with liability on a real estate mortgage that is not being paid as agreed or real estate that is not being sold as per the terms of the agreement. Credit scores can be ruined or the ability to obtain loans impeded.

In order to protect our clients, when we represent someone in a divorce we include language in any agreement or stipulation assuring that our client will be indemnified for any debts or liability that the other party is assuming. Language that protects a client when the spouse receiving real estate fails to pay is essential as well as language that requires mortgages to be refinanced or modified to release our client from liability within a certain amount of time is also important. In cases where our firm is assisting after a divorce is final, usually the recourse for resolving a post-decree dispute is to either attempt to settle the dispute through mediation or to bring a motion in court to enforce the prior agreement.

Regardless, knowledge and understanding of potential future issues are key to avoiding preventable harm.


This week, 29-year-old intelligence operative Edward Snowden released files to the Guardian, revealing the secret and vast data collection program by the US National Security Agency. The program uses dragnet surveillance techniques to collect cell-phone metadata, as well as e-mail content and other online material of US citizens. This mass collection occurs with apparently minimal political and legal oversight.

He states that his reason for releasing the files is that something of this nature should not be kept secret but should be open to public discussion: it should be up to the people to choose whether or not they forego their privacy. Personally, he is not okay with such a system and said in an interview with the Guardian, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

He gave up his life in Hawaii, where he worked for Booz Allen and made $200,000 in order to release the top secret files.

Some feel the leak was inappropriate and that Snowden is a traitor, while others call him brave and a hero – someone who gave up his comfortable life in paradise in order to benefit the American people.

As he awaits his fate in Hong Kong, ready to fight any attempt of extradition, we in America are left with some questions. Is this spy program effective at making us safer? Are we willing to give up our Constitutionally-protected privacy?

Two Senators, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, are asking for evidence that the NSA’s collection of records has actually helped to thwart any terrorist attacks. NSA director, General Keith Alexander testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill that maintaining a database of millions of Americans’ phone records was essential to preventing “dozens” of terrorist plots. Wyden and Udall, though, stated that every plot that Alexander mentioned seem to have been discovered using collection methods other than NSA’s dragnet surveillance.

Essentially, we need more information. But in the meantime, the revelation of the program should make Americans self-reflect and think for a bit as to where we should draw the line. Are we willing to give up Constitutional rights in the name of security if we are not certain that such security is resulting from our sacrifice? And if not – what actions do we take?