Many people fail to seek the legal help they need. If you believe you have a legal issue but do not know where to start, Washington Law Help is an excellent online resource to consult before you call an attorney.
Washington Law Help is a library of free “know your rights” articles, videos, court forms, and do-it-yourself packets covering many common legal issues, available to the public. Their website includes general legal information, as well as specific, step-by-step instructions for people facing issues in family law, housing, public benefits, and money/debt problems.
Information specifically for older people include resources regarding Alzheimer’s/dementia; planning for death; power of attorney; elder abuse and exploitation; guardianship of an adult; health care; Social Security benefits; and Information for senior advocates. The site is created and maintained by the attorneys at Northwest Justice Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to justice for all low-income people in Washington.
Washington Law Help includes a directory of legal aid programs in Washington. It is a good place to start researching your legal issue, before calling a lawyer. Many of their packets, downloadable for free, explain legal issues in easy-to-understand terms, include legal forms, and may help you determine if you need to hire an attorney.
One caveat regarding online legal forms—you should be very careful relying upon an online form to entirely meet your needs. As with any legal document, you need to make sure you understand what you are signing. Online forms do not give you legal advice and are designed as one-form-fits-all, without the ability to adjust for your specific circumstances.
Some forms may be designed for immediate emergency use when there is no time to retain an attorney. Other forms may cover one aspect of a legal situation, but do not provide a complete solution. For example, there are some estate planning forms on Washington Law Help, but not all the estate plan documents which are considered essential, and relying on these generic forms alone would result in an incomplete estate plan.
Do check out Washington Law Help if you think you have a legal issue, or you are curious about the law and your rights. Your preparation will help reduce the time an attorney spends educating you about the basics and that could save you money.
Contributor Grace V. Dyer is an attorney. Her general practice law firm is committed to serving the legal needs of moderate-income clients and the common legal needs of individuals and families, with a focus on estate planning, probate, real estate law and litigation, and helping tenants facing eviction. The firm also helps disabled clients obtain or keep Social Security benefits through representation at hearings and through appeals of denied claims.