Assisting clients with their assets since 1989

Assisting clients with their assets since 1989

By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune | Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2015 12:00 am

ChristopherMoore

Attorney Christopher Moore has been practicing law in the
Lewiston Clarkston Valley for nearly 30 years and is a partner
at Creason, Moore, Dokken & Geidl, the oldest established
law firm in Idaho.

Name: Christopher Moore

Company Name: Creason, Moore, Dokken & Geidl, PLLC

Position: Senior member/managing member lawyer

Age: 63

Education: Lewiston High School graduate.
Bachelor’s in business, major in accounting,
University of Idaho in 1974. Graduated from the
University of Idaho College of Law in 1989.

Career History: Worked at a Nampa accounting firm from 1975- 77, then returned to Lewiston and worked at Roberts, McMains & Sellman & Co., CPAs from August 1977 through June 1986 as a certified public accountant, where he was a partner. Joined Creason, Moore, Dokken & Geidl, PLLC, in 1989. Specializes in estate planning, trusts, probates, and Medicaid matters.

Family: Married to Pam Moore, who taught in the Lewiston School District for 35 years and is now retired.

Civic Involvement: Board of directors of Opportunities Unlimited Inc., for 30 years this October.
Trustee on the Boys and Girls Clubs Endowment Trust, board member of the LewisClark State College Foundation and member First Presbyterian Church of Clarkston.

Firm’s History: The firm was founded in 1902 and has four partners, Moore, Dave Dokken, Tod Geidl and Sam Creason, plus an associate attorney, Paul Burris and five support staff. Areas of practice include small business services, estate planning and probate, elder law and Medicaid, general
litigation, insurance defense, creditors’ rights, real property, family law, intellectual property and tax law.

Christopher Moore measures his success as an attorney by how much he stays out of court.
Assets pass fluidly from one party to another after someone’s death if he has drawn up documents correctly and anticipated the right possibilities.
When he started doing this type of law in the 1980s, his clients were usually his parents’ age. Now they’re much closer to being his peers, something that hit home in April with the unexpected death of Theodore Creason, who made him a partner less than two years after he completed law school.

The Creason affiliation with the firm will continue. Creason’s youngest son, Sam Creason, has been a partner at the firm since 2014. But Moore is now the senior partner, a role he’s humble about. Traditionally it has involved giving fellow lawyers informal advice. “I don’t think I’m as good as being a sounding board as Ted was, but I certainly do that.”

Business Profile talked with Moore about his switch from accounting to law, innovations he helped pioneer in estate planning and how the firm coped with the loss of Creason.

You had been in accounting for more than a decade when you went to law school. What was the
reason for the change in course?
As a CPA, I enjoyed doing tax returns up to a point, but it just was very repetitious. I started exploring options. I had taken the law school admission test when I finished college, but I didn’t have the money for law school. I checked with the University of Idaho law school about admission
standards. It was really pretty late. It was June 1986. They said I could reinstate my law school admission test. I quickly turned in an application. Two months later I was accepted. I sold my partnership in my accounting firm and I lived off the proceeds of the sale for the next three years. My wife was working too, so that helped.

How did that decision work for you?
I’ve never regretted switching to law. Practicing law is always interesting.

Is there any casework you’re particularly proud of?
When I started, people hadn’t really given a lot of thought to protecting assets for children who haddisabilities. What we would find is we would have a parent who died and in their will, they leftmoney outright to an incapacitated child. Idaho and federal statutes allow you to create a special needs trust and put that money in there so it doesn’t go directly to an incapacitated person. It doesn’t have to be paid directly to state Medicaid recovery or anything like that. It can be used for the child. So when I first started practicing, I probably did three or four of those types of cases. Now when I’m doing wills or estate plans, I always ask if there’s an incapacitated child or grandchild, somebody we need to protect.

What more can you share about estate planning?
I always suggest that we not only do the will, but that we do a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney and perhaps a living will. If it’s a married couple who plan on leaving all their assets to the survivor, we typically would do a community property agreement. I started off right away doing an entire package of documents for people, which hadn’t really been done that much before.

How does a power of attorney work and what is a living will?
The medical power of attorney comes into play when someone can’t answer questions about their care, often because of a stroke or dementia. At that point they go to the person with the medical power of attorney and say, “What does this person want?” They make the decision about, “Yes, let’s try that medication and see what happens.” That operates until two doctors say there is no hope of recovery.

At that point, the medical power of attorney stops and the living will takes over, (which gives end of life directives). The financial power of attorney could be the same person as the medical power of attorney. Generally it’s used when an elderly person starts to get dementia and they need help with their bank accounts or paying their bills.

(This approach saves money.) Without the power of attorney documents, when someone is completely incapacitated by an illness or an accident, you have to go to court at substantial cost to get a guardianship (for medical matters) and a conservatorship (for financial decisions). A power of attorney can be done for a couple hundred dollars.

Why is a community property agreement helpful?
It is kind of an automatic transfer of all assets to the survivor when one spouse dies, so there’s no need for probate or other legal proceeding to transfer the assets to the survivor. That saves a lot of time and grief and expense. Say you have a residence and it’s owned by Mom and Dad. Dad dies and the deed still has Mom and Dad’s names on it. You can’t sell the property because Dad is no longer there to sign the deed.

How did you make partner?
It was pretty easy for me because when I came to the firm, Ted Creason was the only partner. Dan O’Connell had passed away about two years prior. All of Dan’s clients were still coming into the firm. There was too much work for Ted to do. (It wasn’t very long before Ted said), “You’re bringing in new clients all the time for estate planning and tax matters, we might as well just form a partnership.” We get paid a salary based on billable dollars over the year. As an owner, if there are profits left after paying all the expenses then we divide them up. Once you become a partner, you’re also given some freedom about what cases you take.

How has the firm coped with the loss of Theodore Creason?

Ted was a very productive partner, hard working. He had a lot of cases. He was here on a Thursday, felt really ill, went home at noon and never came back. He had pneumonia at that time. When they tried to treat the pneumonia, they discovered he also had leukemia. That was a very unexpected, very sudden thing. Ted had several court cases that were scheduled for trial at the time. A couple of them were scheduled to start within a two or three week time frame after he became ill. We had to figure out who was going to carry the case forward. On several of them, we had to go to court and ask for a continuance. Tod Geidl and Sam Creason (handled most of them). They also already had cases in the hopper. It was really hard, particularly for Sam because he wanted to be with his dad, but he was here doing the casework. It was hard because we wanted to go visit Ted. Unfortunately, Ted needed to go to Seattle. That’s where he was for cancer treatments.

Once Ted stabilized, he was very helpful and he was on the phone calling, doing some email. We were looking to hire a new attorney at the time Ted got sick. So we were already feeling like we had more work than we could handle. We have kind of settled into a routine, but are still looking for another attorney and over the next two years will probably hire two new attorneys.

-Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 8482261.