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Vacating a Criminal Record in Washington State

Vacating a criminal record in Washington requires filing documents in court.

If a past criminal conviction could cause problems, you may be interested in vacating a criminal record. Clearing an old criminal record is a possibility in the state of Washington as long as you meet all requirements and file the proper court-required documents. Read on to learn about the process of vacating a criminal.

What Is Vacating?

The process of vacating a criminal record is also known as sealing a criminal record or filing for a vacation of a criminal record. If the court grants vacation of a criminal record, it means the record still exists, but its contents cannot be revealed or publicly viewed. In some cases, juvenile records can be destroyed as long as all requirements are met. Click here to read the requirements for vacating a criminal record.

Types of Crimes

Misdemeanors, gross misdemeanor and felony convictions may be vacated if you meet all of the requirements established by the state. Crimes such as sex offenses, pornography, driving under the influence or an attempt to commit a violent offense do not qualify for a vacation.

Reasons for Vacating a Criminal Record

You may need to pass a background check related to housing or employment, and a conviction could negatively impact those chances. Or you may want to obtain a passport or obtain special licenses, but the conviction may cause problems. According to Washington Law Help, if you have a vacated record, you may honestly answer that you were not convicted of a crime, and thus opening the door to more opportunities.

Qualifications

Vacating your conviction doesn’t happen automatically. You must meet certain qualifications. For example, a certain amount of time must have passed since the conviction. Plus, you cannot have any criminal charges pending in any municipal, state or federal court. In addition, you cannot have unpaid fines, fees or court ordered restitution. Other requirements also need to be met. Click here to read the full list of requirements for vacating a criminal record.

Filing Documents

You must fill out and file the correct forms with the court to start the process of vacation a criminal record. Since the forms are fairly straight forward, you may be able to complete them yourself. Click here to buy an instant download of a Misdemeanor Vacating/Sealing Criminal Records Kit. Click here to buy an instant download of a Felony Vacating/Sealing Criminal Records Kit. Click here to buy an instant download of a Records Sealing Kit – Juvenile. All of our kits contain the most recent forms required by Washington state courts.

If you feel you need the services of an attorney to help file the documents or to get advice about your quest to vacate a criminal record, click here to visit our lawyer referral pages.

Additional reading:

Click here to read the State of Washington’s ‘A Guide to Sealing and Destroying Court Records, Vacating Convictions, and Deleting Criminal History Records in Washington State.’

Lawyer Fees: How Much Will Representation Cost?

Lawyer fees vary from firm to firm.

Before you hire an attorney, find out how much the lawyer fees will be. Knowing what you’ll pay can help you plan and budget for the work to be done. Attorney fees and payment arrangements vary from firm to firm, so there’s no set standard.

Ask them to put their fee schedule in writing and find out how they want to be paid. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s the types of payment arrangements many of the law firms we work with make with their clients.

Hourly Rates

Law firms with set hourly rates charge you by the hour for work done on your case. The lawyer fees may be provided as two different hourly rates: one for work done in the office and another rate for courtroom time. Ask the attorney if the hourly rate includes everything, such as research, court fees and copying. If not, request a breakdown of fees charged beyond the hourly rate. Before you agree to work with the attorney, ask for an estimate on how many hours he estimates your case will take.

Contingency

Some lawyer fees are done on a contingency basis. An attorney who agrees to work on a contingency basis does so without being paid until your case is resolved. Personal injury cases are commonly handled on contingency. Contingency fees can be negotiated, so find out whether she feels the case will be quickly settled or not. A smaller contingency fee may be negotiated if the case requires less work and is settled out of court compared to a lengthy case that goes to trial.

You and your attorney will agree on a percentage as the contingency fee before any work is started. Also ask about other fees you will need to pay for, such as court fees, copying documents and expert witnesses.

Related: Click here to see a list of Accidents & Injuries attorneys in Washington.

Flat Fee

Some attorneys charge by the project, resulting in a flat fee. For instance, they may charge a certain amount to write a will while charging a different flat fee to prepare divorce documents. Ask the attorney if the flat fee covers everything. If not, request a breakdown of fees for any additional costs, such as filing fees and copying, etc.

Related: Click here to see a list of Estate Planning attorneys who write wills, trusts, etc., in Washington.

Retainer

Your attorney may ask you to make a payment up front before work starts on your case. This is known as a retainer, and it’s similar to a deposit. The attorney will then send a billing statement each month with details on how your retainer is being spent.

Got Your Digital Assets Covered? Five Things You Need to Know

Keeping track of login information is critical to preeserving your digital assets for the future.

Are you on Facebook? Do you use PayPal? Are some of your financial or shopping accounts online? Do you post family or personal photos to your social media pages or to the cloud? If so, you own digital assets.

If you suddenly have an accident or become too ill to handle your own personal affairs, a power of attorney can step in to handle things for you. But they can only do so much if you do not have a plan to handle the digital assets. Without a plan, your family could be buried in red tape for months, if not years, leaving your affairs in shambles.

What happens to your digital assets once you pass away? You could be leaving money and assets on the table that simply can’t be accessed without an incredible amount of effort by your loved ones. Sometimes those assets are of an emotional value, such as personal emails and family photos, and could be lost forever.

 

Rather than leaving your family or estate executor with a huge mess, use these tips to make sure your digital assets don’t get lost in the cloud forever.

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets consist of any online account or file you store on your computer, smartphone or in the cloud. These accounts and files often require login information consisting of a username and password. Sometimes security questions are asked to verify your identity.

Types of Digital Assets

Here are a few of the digital assets to consider:

  • Financial – bank, investment and PayPal accounts.
  • Utility accounts
  • Healthcare – including medical history, prescriptions and insurance information
  • Photos, music, videos, books, artwork
  • Domain names and website hosting accounts
  • Personal and business email and mailing addresses
  • Shopping accounts
  • Cell phone accounts
  • Social media pages
  • Databases related to collectibles

Gather Login Information

The first step you must take is to create a list of login information for all of your accounts. Make sure to include the website address of the account, your user name or account number, password and any security questions or PIN numbers, if required.

Store Login Information Securely

Keeping your login information secure is critical. The simplest way is to create a password-protected document on your computer (make sure you back it up, too).

Even better – use an online password manager such as Dashlane or LastPass. Both companies offer encrypted security protocols to keep all of your login information safe. This also allows you to change passwords and update accounts without having to provide your executor with a new copy of the information each and every time you make a change.

Prepare Legal Documents

After you go to all of the work to gather your login information, don’t forget to share the information with your Power of Attorney or estate executor in case you can’t manage your own affairs. Click here to download a DIY General and Durable Power of Attorney, good in the state of Washington. Click here to buy a Will Kit (State of Washington). Both kits are available as instant downloads, or buy the print version, and we’ll mail to you.

What Is A Notarized Signature and Why Do I Need One?

Notary Public located in Seattle, Washington, King County

Need a notarized signature in order to file legal documents or take the next step in a legal transaction? Why do banks, courts and other legal institutions require a notary signature?

Simply put, a notarized signature is often required to witness and certify the person signing a document is who he says he is. A notary’s primary job is to prevent fraud and to give legal institutions confidence a legal document is legitimate.

Appointed by WA State

As a notary public, the official name given to people who provide notary services, we are appointed by Washington state government via the Secretary of State, to perform notary duties. We act as an impartial witness when it comes to signing important legal documents. Part of our notary duties include screening of all signers and making sure each person signs of their own free will. Part of the job includes witnessing the signing. The other part of our job requires maintaining accurate records of all notary transactions completed.

How It Works

When you go to a notary, you’ll be asked to provide identification to verify you are who you say you are. Some types of legal documents require you to provide two forms of identification, so check in advance to find out what you need to bring. Do NOT sign your legal documents before coming to our or any other notary’s office. Once your ID and willingness to sign is verified, then you sign the documents in front of the notary. You must do so without anyone forcing you to sign. Once you sign, the notary adds their own signature, an official notary seal and commission details. You now have a notarized signature.

Qualifications for a Notary

In Washington state, one must obtain a surety bond from an insurance company in order to apply to become a notary public. You also attend a notary education class and must learn the laws and rules for becoming a notary public.

Types of Documents Requiring a Notary

The most common types of documents requiring a notarized signature include the following. By no means is this a complete list, though.

  • Wills (click here to buy an instant download of a will)
  • Living Trusts
  • Home mortgage Deed of Trust
  • Power of attorney designations (click here to buy an instant download of a power of attorney)
  • Prenuptial agreements (click here to buy an instant download of a prenuptial agreement)
  • Contracts
  • Bill of Sale
  • Transferring an automobile
  • Consent for a minor to travel abroad

Give Attorneys’ Information Bureau/Do It Yourself Legal Kits a call at (206) 622-1909 to find out what you need to get your signature notarized. Our office, located in the King County Courthouse in Seattle, is open from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for notary services (please note, we’re closed from 12 to 1:00 p.m.)

Do We Offer Legal Advice? 5 Things Attorneys’ Information Bureau (AIB) Offers

We cannot offer legal advice, but our small team is ready to assist you with other services.

A common question we get when do-it-yourselfers come into our office is if we offer legal advice. Unfortunately, we do NOT offer legal advice. But here’s a partial list of what we do offer to both do-it-yourselfers and attorneys.

Help You Choose the Right Legal Form/Kit

Did you know…attorneys rely on us for legal forms and kits to fill in and submit to the court since we constantly keep all of the forms up to date per new court specifications?

You don’t have to be an attorney to use some of these forms. We also make a bunch of our legal kits available to non-lawyers, too. For non-lawyers, choosing the right kit to buy and fill in can save lots of time and money.

But you may have questions about which kit to buy. Many of our customers describe problems with tenants/renters (eviction kit), probate or civil lawsuit cases, and want to know which kit they need. Others want to know which divorce kit they need to fill out. We offer several to choose from, so tell us what the circumstances are, and we’ll recommend the right kit/forms. If you prefer to order our legal kits as an instant download, just call us at (206) 622-1909 to get an idea of which one is best for your needs, and then you can go to our website to order. Or head right to our Do It Yourself Legal Kits website by clicking here.

Lost? We Can Help!

Another common question we get is, “Where’s the clerk’s office?” We’ll gladly point the way, so stop by our window and we’ll give you directions. Our offices are located in Room C-603 of the King County Courthouse located at 516 Third Avenue in Seattle.

Retrieve Legal Documents

We have a legal researcher on staff who retrieves filed legal documents for a fee. Documents from King County as well as other counties can be retrieved, as long as the files have been uploaded online. We can then email the documents to you or messenger everything to your office. Here’s a list of the courts and other offices from which we can research and retrieve documents:

U.S. Federal Courts – District and Bankruptcy
Washington State Supreme Court
Washington State Court of Appeals
Superior Courts
District Courts
Municipal Courts
Auditor’s offices
Assessor’s offices
Vital Statistics
Law Libraries

If you’re an attorney, we recommend becoming a member, as our research fee is waived (a case access and per page copy fee still applies). Click here to find out how to become a member and to view the list of benefits.

Make Copies

If you’re an attorney who is a member of AIB’s Member Services, we offer access to photocopiers, computers and printers in our offices located in the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. You can also access our Wi-Fi and work in our office, so bring your laptop and wait out your next case in the courthouse in our comfortable office.

Notary Services

Once you fill in your legal forms, most require a notary signature. On your way to filing the documents with the Clerk, stop by our offices, and we’ll notarize them for you for a per document fee. We offer notary services Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although we are closed from noon until 1:00 p.m. each day.

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page.

Do It Yourself Vs. Hiring an Attorney: Making the Right Choice

Man filling in do it yourself legal form.

Filling in do it yourself legal forms and kits can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in attorney fees. We offer do-it-yourself legal forms for filing documents in the State of Washington. But we also offer a list of attorneys in Washington state who can handle your legal matters. Why do we offer both?

Because there are times when you likely can fill out and file a do it yourself form on your own. But other situations require an experienced attorney who knows exactly how to handle your situation, understands the court system and can get the job done accurately so no mistakes are made that cause you even bigger problems down the road.

How do you know whether do it yourself forms will do the trick and when it might make more sense to hire an attorney?

Money is Short

If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, filling in do it yourself legal forms may be the only choice you have for uncomplicated cases.

Prefer to Represent Yourself

Representing yourself in court is referred to as “Pro Se.” You’ll need to fill out your own paperwork and file any required legal documents with the court yourself if you choose to go pro se. Obtaining the proper legal forms, including any updates the court makes, is key to filing the property paperwork. We offer a selection of forms thare are always updated to meet Washington court standards.

Ramping Up

Many people fill in their own legal forms without any intention of actually filing them with the court. They use the forms and the information required to get a strong start on their meeting with an attorney. This can save valuable time and money at the attorney’s office when you already know some of the answers and can bring the necessary documentation before your meeting.

Complicated Situations

Complicated cases, such as lawsuit and matters that require negotiation are more difficult to handle unless you have lots of experience with the courts and the legal situation. Hiring an attorney usually makes more sense in these situations. Click here to find a lawyer.

Lots of Questions

If you have lots of questions about your legal situation, seeking the services of an attorney makes sense. You might even feel more confident after visiting your attorney to attempt to fill out the forms yourself.

Immediate Situations

If you’re suddenly in a legal situation and need to resolve it or get the process rolling ASAP, hiring an attorney may be preferable. For instance, if your spouse unexpectedly says they want a divorce, contacting an attorney to find out what next steps you should take could save you from dealing with more problems down the road. . Click here to find a lawyer.

Related: Read our blog post about the importance of finding an attorney before you actually need one.

Business Legalities

Many business legalities can be handled yourself, says the Small Business Administration. The SBA says legal issues such as filing paperwork to start a business, creating contracts and setting up the legal structure for your business may not require an attorney. But complex issues require the expertise of a lawyer, including filing patents, going through litigation and forming a corporation. Read the full SBA article by clicking here. Click here to read our blog post containing resources for handling the legal aspects of your company.

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page.

 

Divorce vs. Legal Separation: Learn the Basic Facts

Deciding between divorce vs. legal separation starts with knowing the facts.

The news is filled with updates on celebrity relationships, giving us lots of insight into divorce vs. legal separation. Often times, you’ll hear about a couple who lived separately for months before deciding to get divorced. Other times, couples seem to head right for divorce.

What is the difference between divorce vs. legal separation? Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each can help you make the right decision on what is best for your family and/or relationship.

What’s the Difference?

A physical separation means you and your spouse simply decide to live apart. Couples may use a physical separation as an informal arrangement to cool off and give themselves time to figure out their next steps.

But physical separation differs from legal separation. A legal separation means a change is made to your marital status. In order to obtain a legal separation, you need to file documents with the court. A legal separation agreement can reduce the risks for each person while handling issues such as dividing assets and debts and setting up child support and visitation rights

A divorce is a complete and final legal dissolution of your marriage. After the divorce is finalized, each person is allowed to marry someone else after a waiting period.

 Why Choose Divorce vs. Legal Separation

A legal separation can take as long and be as expensive as a divorce since you must file paperwork and then wait for months for it to go through. So, why do couples choose legal separation rather than a divorce? Some couples feel a legal separation gives them a better chance for a reconciliation.

Some choose legal separation because of religious or moral beliefs about divorce. Since a legal separation allows a couple to continue filing a joint tax return, this can also be a benefit. Others may choose legal separation due to the potential benefit of continued health insurance coverage, says Time. In comparison, once you’re divorced, you cannot stay on your ex-spouse’s health insurance plan, according to Forbes.

Deciding between a legal separation or divorce could come down to finances. Click here to read the Forbes article, Legal Separation or Divorce: Which is Better Financially.

Next Steps

Visiting an attorney to find out which one is best for your situation and needs may help you make the best decision. Click here to visit our attorney referral page for a list of Family Law attorneys.

You may be able to file your own legal separation documents for non-contested separations. We offer an instant download of a Legal Separation Kit, Non-Contested.

We also offer a Divorce Forms Kit without Children as well as a Divorce Forms Kit with Children for do-it-yourselfers.

 

This blog post is not offered as specific advice, which may only be provided by an attorney based upon each individual situation. To find an attorney, click here to visit our attorney referral page.

 

3 Tips To Help You and Your Spouse Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

talk to your kids about divorce

Like most parents, you hope to never need to talk to your kids about divorce. But divorce happens, and when it does, your kids need to understand the situation and how it affects them. Your kids may be more perceptive about what’s going on than you think, which makes the conversation all the more important. Follow these tips to talk to your kids about divorce and make sure they understand what’s going on and feel reassured about their future.

Explain Together

This is the time for you and your spouse to put aside your differences and make a statement together in front of your kids. Don’t fight with each other during this conversation, as the goal is to show your children that you can work together as parents. Also avoid the blame game or making negative comments about each other in front of your kids during this conversation, says Liana Lowenstein, MSW, a therapist who offers resources for families going through divorce. Click here to read her article, Explaining Separation/Divorce to Children.

Script It

Don’t improvise the conversation when you talk to your kids about divorce. Instead, decide what to say beforehand, and stick to the script. Start by understanding your child’s age group and what’s essential to them. Today’s Parent offers a thorough age by age guide worth a read before you create your script.

Gerald A. Falzone, a family law attorney, says there’s no need to pretend everything is fine during this conversation. He suggests keeping things simple and about facts. Get ideas about what to say in his article, Joint Custody: How to Talk With Your Kids About Divorce.

Basically, explain when the divorce will take place and which parent will be staying in the home and which one will be moving out. Talk to them about when they will see the other parent, according to your custody arrangement. This part of the conversation may come later than the initial announcement. Take a look at the example scripts offered at FamilyEducation.org.

Encourage Questions

Allow your kids to explain how they feel right after the announcement and in the days to follow. Encourage any questions they may have. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and if you don’t know the answer, tell them so. Acknowledge their feelings instead of pushing them away, as this leaves the door open for maintaining an open dialogue as the divorce progresses.

Related:

We sell do-it-yourself divorce/dissolution kits as well as legal separation kits, good in the state of Washington. These kits can be bought as an instant download, or you can order one, and we’ll mail it to you:

Divorce Forms Kit without Children (also known as Dissolution Kit without Children)

Divorce Forms Kit with Children (also known as Dissolution Kit with Children)

Legal Separation Kit, Non-Contested

 

Making a Court Appearance: 7 Things Your Need to Know Before Stepping Into the Courtroom

Making your first court appearance can be a bit unnerving.

Prepping for a court appearance can feel intimidating. Even if you watch Judge Judy on a regular basis, navigating the court system can feel scary. The key to confidently going to a hearing or trial is to be fully prepared. Follow these steps to make sure you’re doing all you can to get ready for the big event.

Do a Walk Through

Ask your attorney to walk you through how the proceeding will go. Ask them if you will need to speak or if they plan to do all of that for you during the court appearance. If you completed and filed all of the court documents yourself and feel confident about representing yourself in front of a judge, you may want to hire an attorney to just walk you through procedures. That way, you know what to expect if you choose to represent yourself.

Bring Your Paperwork

Bring a copy of the paperwork you filed with the court if you represent yourself. Otherwise, ask your attorney if you need to bring any papers, as he will most likely bring everything with him. You can also bring an outline or notes about what you plan to say and refer to it in front of the judge.

Use Proper Etiquette

Each time you start speaking to the judge, start with “Your Honor.” Be polite. Keep your emotions under control, and avoid outbursts. Try to stay calm. Speak loudly enough for the judge to hear you. Don’t interrupt the judge, and do not speak to the other party while you’re in the courtroom.

Arrive on Time

Avoid being late to your court appearance. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appearance. Ideally, practice the route to the courthouse before the day of your appearance so you know traffic volumes and where to park.

Leave the Kids at Home

Unless your child will be a witness at your hearing or trial, do not bring your children. If you must bring them with you, plan to have them wait outside the courtroom until you’re finished.

Dress for Court

Most attorneys highly recommend wearing conservative clothing as if you’re dressing for a professional job interview. Don’t wear a hat in the courtroom.

Leave Devices & Coffee Behind

Before entering the courtroom, turn off your personal devices, such as mobile phones. Put them away so they are out of sight. Do not use your cell phone or a camera inside of the courtroom. Same goes with beverages and food – leave them out of the courtroom.

Pre-Divorce: Preparing to Make the Announcement to Your Spouse

Do some pre-divorce groundwork, key to taking care of yourself.

Deciding to divorce your spouse can be a stressful and painstaking process. If you’re thinking about getting one, the key to getting through a divorce with your sanity still intact requires doing some groundwork before informing your spouse of the decision. Follow these pre-divorce tips to help make the road a bit easier.

 

Meet with a Financial Advisor

An article in USA Today recommends meeting with a financial advisor, especially if you haven’t been involved in your household’s finances. A financial advisor can help you create an exit plan that makes sure you have enough money to make ends meet once the divorce is finalized. They can also help you create a plan for surviving the divorce long-term, making sure you have enough money to pursue your goals and dreams.

 

Collect Paperwork

You’ll also want to collect paperwork, such as tax returns and bank and investment information, etc., so you know what assets are available. Tacoma and Pierce County Child Custody Lawyer Jason Benjamin suggests quietly gathering information before you tell your spouse you want a divorce so you get fair results when it comes to splitting assets. Click here to read Benjamin’s Tips on Preparing for Divorce.

 

Prep the Paperwork

The legal forms required to file a divorce can be completed without an attorney if your divorce is uncontested. We offer two types of kits for those filing in Washington state. One is a Divorce Forms Kit without Children, also referred to as a Dissolution Kit without Children. The other kit we offer is the Divorce Forms Kit with Children. Both kits contain all of the forms required in to file for an uncontested divorce. Each kit also contains instructions to guide you through the steps for filing the paperwork. Sometimes people buy one of these kits to get a better feel for what’s involved in a divorce and then hire an attorney to handle all of the legal paperwork.

 

Consider Hiring an Attorney

If your divorce is contested, you likely need to seek the services of an attorney. If you need to find an attorney, click here to take a look at the Family Law attorneys listed in our referral service. Before hiring an attorney, know what questions to ask so you find one with whom you can comfortably work. Click here to read our blog post about the questions to ask before you sign on the dotted line with a law firm.

Click here for tips on finding an attorney.