Older adults benefit from knowledge of legal resources or dispute resolution services for many reasons. Since we don’t live or necessarily stay healthy forever, there is a need to:
- Execute a will (or update your present will) so the person or people you want to inherit from you will do so.
- Establish a power of attorney, so the person or people you trust will be able to manage your finances and act on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
- Craft a document that states your wishes regarding future medical treatment and care if you become unable to advocate for yourself.
- Perform duties as executor or personal representative of an estate, if a relative or close friend dies.
In addition to legal support, sometimes we need help with benefits—additional assistance or information related to our current or future Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and/or veteran’s benefits.
Immigrant elders and/or family members may face problems relating to citizenship, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—a U.S. immigration policy), asylum, deportation, and other matters relating to immigration status.
Knowledge of legal resources is important if you face eviction, are behind in rent, or if you are face home foreclosure due to inability to pay your property taxes or mortgage payments.
Disputes with neighbors, family members, landlords, and others may be resolved through mediation or other forms of conflict resolution at dispute or conflict resolution centers.
It’s important to know our rights under the law and keep current on the law and useful resources so we can help ourselves, our friends, and our children.
Following are local resources that can help older adults and others plan for the future, settle current disputes, obtain a better understanding of the law, handle difficult situations, protect our rights, and obtain legal advice or representation. Some of the services are free. Many of the organizations can assist you both in English and other languages.
- Bellevue Conflict Resolution Center helps Bellevue residents and workers resolve multiple conflicts including those that involve elders, landlords, tenants, parents and teens, foreclosure, businesses, and neighbors. For assistance through their Eviction Prevention Pilot Program, call 425-452-4091, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the City of Bellevue’s Request Conflict Assistance form.
- Catholic Immigration Legal Services provides legal immigration assistance to low-income residents of Washington, irrespective of religion. Call 206-328-6314 for information.
- Dispute Resolution Center of King County helps resolve disputes including those that involve family and parenting, workplace and business, school, youth, and landlord-tenants disputes, including eviction resolution. Call 206-443-9603 for information.
- Eastside Legal Assistance Program provides free legal advice and resources to King County residents who cannot afford an attorney. Help is provided on multiple issues including wills and estate planning, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, immigration, eviction, foreclosure, and veteran’s benefits. Call 425-747-7274 for more information.
- King County 2-1-1 (operated by the nonprofit Crisis Connections) can refer you to programs that focus on multiple legal-related issues, including estate planning, eviction, home foreclosures, debt collection, discrimination, and denial of public benefits, such as Medicare or Social Security. To access, call 211.
- King County Bar Association (KCBA): The KCBA’s Free Legal Assistance webpage offers the following resources:
- Neighborhood Legal Clinics, which provide free 30-minute consultations with an attorney at 34 locations across King County and are currently open for phone consultation. (The clinics may give priority to housing, family issues, and employment discrimination.)
- Self Help-Plus Program, which helps low-income people that represent themselves in uncontested family Law Action (206-267-7080).
- Kinship Care Solutions Project, which provides free legal representation to low-income relatives and other caregivers seeking custody (also known as third party custody) of a child or children (206-267-7086).
- Housing Justice Project, which provides free legal help to eligible low-income tenants facing eviction in King County. For assistance, call 206-464-1519 but for urgent issues dial 2-1-1.
- Records Project, which provides free legal services to vacate eligible King County criminal convictions for individuals who are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (206-267-7086).
- Lawyer Referral Service (free at this time), which serves individuals who wish to hire an attorney by providing up to three referrals and a free 30-minute phone consultation with the attorneys to which they are referred (206-267-7010).
- King County Department of Public Defense provides legal representation to adults and juveniles who have been charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney, as well as people facing civil commitment, parents who could lose their children in a dependency action, and people seeking to vacate a past felony or misdemeanor conviction. For urgent matters, call 206-477-8899; otherwise, call their main line at 206-296-7662.
- King County Legal Assistance is a webpage with useful links to information on multiple legal issues, including domestic violence, low-cost legal assistance, landlord-tenant problems, criminal offenses, and general information.
- Moderate Means Program (offered by the Washington State Bar Association) is a low-fee lawyer referral program for persons residing in moderate-income households, providing legal assistance on family, housing, and consumer issues. For more information, call 855-741-6930.
- Northwest Immigration Rights Project promotes justice by defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education. Call 206-957-8600 for information.
- Northwest Justice Project provides legal assistance to eligible low-income families and persons with civil (non-criminal) legal issues. For eviction help, call 855-657-8387. The program provides foreclosure support for individuals with low and moderate incomes—call 800-606-4819. For general information, call 206-464-1519.
- Senior Rights Assistance (operated by the nonprofit Sound Generations) enables you to schedule a free, 30-minute Elder Law Clinic appointment to discuss power of attorney, guardianship, wills, and estate planning. Call 206-448-5720 for information.
- Tenant Law Center (operated by Catholic Community Services) provides free legal assistance in King County for low-income persons who are facing eviction or termination of housing subsidy, regardless of religious affiliation. Call 206-324-6890 for information.
- Unemployment Law Project provides free legal services to people who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits has been challenged. Call 206-441-9178 for information.
- Washington Homeownership Resource Center is a nonprofit service recommended by the Office of the Washington State Attorney General for persons having problems paying their mortgage and/or facing foreclosure. The program also assists clients in buying a home and gives home repair and modification assistance. Call 877-894-4663 for information.
- Washington LawHelp is a website that provides free legal information and self-help resources, including videos, court forms, and articles on multiple topics, including eviction and tenant rights, money and debt, family, and personal safety. The site’s “Planning Ahead/Seniors” section encompasses articles on Social Security benefits, planning for death, power of attorney, Alzheimer’s, health care, and more, including a printable “Living with Dementia Mental Health Advance Directive” form.
In addition, Community Living Connections—a service coordinated and funded by Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County—can help you resolve complex issues related to aging, disability and/or caregiving, and refer you to community resources as needed. Calls and consultations are professional, confidential, and free of charge.
Contributor Diana Thompson is a member of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services and a member of the Bellevue Network on Aging.