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8 Tips to Complete and File Your Own Legal Documents

Use these tips to complete and file your own legal documents.

If you like do-it-yourself projects, you may want to complete and file your own legal documents. First, ou don’t need to be an attorney to complete and file your own legal documents. We offer a wide selection of legal kits and forms you can complete and file yourself.

Secondly, some of our customers buy legal forms to get an idea of what information their attorney will want to know, This saves time and money when meeting with a lawyer. No matter why you want to complete and file your own legal documents, use the following tips to make the process even more successful.

Use Current Version

Make sure you’re using the most recent version of any legal kits or legal form. The forms we sell through Do-It-Yourself-Legal-Kits are always the most recent mandated by the court. We even show you which legal kits and forms were recently updated on our list of forms page.  Click here to see the list of legal kits and forms we offer along with update information.

Did you know…attorneys buy our legal kits and forms to complete and use in
their legal cases, so they rely on us to keep all kits and forms up-to-date.

Read Instructions First

Always read the instructions first before you complete and file your own legal documents. The instructions give you an idea of any additional information you’ll need to gather before completing the documents. Most of our legal forms and kits contain instructions. If you feel unsure whether one of our legal forms or kits will work for you, give us a call during business hours at (206) 622-1909.

Use a Black Pen

Fill in the blanks on legal forms with black ink. Use clear, legible handwriting. Avoid using cursive unless you’re signing a document.  Fill in all blanks ­– write N/A in areas where the information does not apply to you.

Representing Yourself

The Family Law Self-Help Center recommends writing “Self-represented” whenever you see a question asking for your attorney’s name.

Sign in All Spots

Carefully comb through all of your legal paperwork to make sure you’ve signed everywhere required.  

Getting Notarized

Some legal documents require notarization by an authorized notary. We offer notary services during regular business hours in our downtown Seattle office. Click here for more information.

Hire An Attorney to Ask Questions

You can still hire an attorney to ask questions you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable answering on the forms. You’ll still save money doing a majority of the paperwork yourself, but also get the satisfaction of having an expert on your side. Visit our Find a Lawyer referral page to find an attorney in Washington state who may be able to help you finalize the forms and provide guidance on your issue.

File Documents

Gather your documents and all fees required in preparation to file the paperwork with the proper court. Fees can usually be paid by cash, money order or with credit and debit cards if filed in person at the court.

Want to Become a Lawyer? Washington State Offers 2 Alternatives

Want to practice law before you pass the bar exam? Here's how to do it in Washington state.

News about Kim Kardashian prepping to take the California Bar Exam to become a lawyer lit up the news and social media outlets. Considering Kardashian hasn’t even eared a Bachelor’s degree, how could she become a practicing attorney so quickly?

Guess what? In California and in our very own Washington state, there are alternates. One involves no law school at all while the second alternative allows you to work as a practicing attorney before you pass the bar exam.

The traditional route to becoming a practicing attorney involves obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, going to law school for several years and eventually taking the bar exam in the state in which you want to practice. Two alternatives to the traditional route to become a practicing lawyer exist in Washington state.

Law Clerk Program

According to the Washington Supreme Courts Admission and Practice Rules, you can participate in the Law Clerk Program to become a lawyer. This is an alternative to attending a traditional 3-year law school. Unlike California, though, you do need a Bachelor’s degree to participate. You must also be employed full time by a lawyer or judge practicing in Washington state. The lawyer or judge for whom you work must have a minimum of 10 years experience and active service in law.

In this program, the attorney or judge acts as your tutor. Once you’ve been approved to participate in The Law Clerk Program, you attend a four-year program that combines work and study to give you an education and practical experience. Once you complete the program, you become eligible to take the Washington State Bar Exam.   Click here to read the rules and regulations about the Law Clerk Program.

Practice While You Attend Law School

If you’re in law school and anxious to immerse yourself in the day-to-day routine of practicing law, the Washington Supreme Court APR 9 Licensed Legal Interns program might be the ticket.

This program gives students a limited license to practice law under the supervision of a lawyer with at least three years of active experience. Requirements include being enrolled in and having completed 2/3 of a 3-year program with an accredited law school.

This program is also helpful for graduates of a law school – you can apply after law school graduation for up to 9 months after finishing school. If you’re accepted, you’ll be granted a legal intern license that allows limited practice in Washington state before you take the bar exam. Click here for more information.

What’s the Difference Between Probate and Estate Planning Attorneys?

Knowing the differences between probate and estate planning attorney can help you choose the right one for your needs.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between attorneys who handle probate versus those who provides estate planning? Simply stated, a probate attorney deals with what happens after a person dies. An estate planning attorney provides legal advice and guidance while a person is still alive. Both probate and estate planning attorneys are state licensed.

Visit the Washington State Bar Association to make sure the attorney you want to hire is licensed in Washington state.

Probate

A probate attorney files your will with the court and appoints an executor of your estate. After your death, a probate attorney also pays bills, files taxes, obtains appraisals of your property and distributes assets and property to your heirs. He can also make decisions in regards to your retirement plan.

This lawyer also files a final accounting of your estate and settles any disputes. Some probate attorneys handle legal matters and represent the beneficiary of an estate. Click here to view our referral list of probate attorneys in Washington state.

Related: Click here to read our blog post, 5 Things to Know About Probate in Washington State


Estate Planning

An estate planning attorney helps you plan what happens after your death. While you can create your own will and health care directives, some people prefer to hire an estate planning attorney to write these documents.

Estate planning attorneys also help set up your estate so your assets are distributed the way you want upon your death. This might involve setting up trusts and joint accounts to avoid estate taxes. An estate attorney also helps create non-probate assets so you control how everything will be distributed. This allows the court to more quickly distribute your assets, since non-probate assets are not controlled by the court, according to ElderLawAnswers, a law firm specializing in elder law.

Your estate planning attorney can also set up the proper paperwork to create joint accounts, bank and life insurance accounts with beneficiaries, and property put in a trust.

Finding an estate planning attorney familiar with Washington state law is important to avoid having your plan deemed invalid by the court, says The Balance. Click here to view our referral list of estate planning attorneys in Washington state.

Choosing a Guardian for Your Child

Choosing a guardian requires careful consideration of a number of factors.

Choosing a guardian takes time and careful thought. A guardian is the person who is designated to legally look after your minor child or a person who is unable to make his own decisions in the event something happens to you. How do you go about choosing a guardian, rather than waiting for the court to do so if you become unable to care for your dependents? Before choosing a guardian, read on for tips on how to choose the best person for the job.

Note: If you need to file legal documents with a Washington State court to become a guardian, click here to view our Guardianship Legal Kit, available as an instant download or a print version we can mail to you.

List Must-Have Qualities

Ask yourself what you want for your child’s future. What’s most important to you in how your children are raised? Parenting suggests creating a list of the characteristics you’d want in a “dream parent.” For instance, if making education a top priority is important to you, you’ll want to choose a guardian that agrees with that value. Forbes suggests reviewing your moral, religious and spiritual values as you make your list.

Combine Lists

You and your spouse may not agree with the priorities you each choose when selecting a guardian. Create a third list of qualities and values you both believe are important, suggests Parenting.

List Candidates

Now it’s time to list all of the potential guardians that have the values and qualities you’ve decided upon. Be honest about family members and friends you want to add to the list. Add people to your list that are physically and mentally capable of raising your children or dependent adult. It also helps to know if each person’s finances are in good shape to take on the cost of raising additional children or an adult that might need long-term care. Don’t forget to take into consideration your spouse’s choices, suggests Parenting. They recommend keeping your child as the focus of the selection process, not winning the situation with your own choice of a guardian.

Talk to the Best Candidate

Make sure your ideal guardian is onboard with your choice. Ask them how they feel about becoming your child or dependent adult’s guardian. Don’t expect an immediate answer; instead, give them time to think through the decision.

Make it Legal

Once you’ve chosen your guardian and the person accepts, make sure you put it in writing. Do not rely on a verbal agreement, says NPR. They say if you do not designate a guardian in writing, your children will likely be placed with child Protective Services. Wills or trusts are great places to name your guardian. Consider adding a letter of instruction that tells the guardian what you’d like from them.

If you need help setting up a Guardianship, see our attorney referral list for Family Law by clicking here or see our list of Estate Planning attorneys by clicking here.

What to Know: Using Garnishment to Collect Your Money from a Debtor

Garnishment is a legal tool to get your money back from a debtor.

Does someone owe you money, but is not paying it back? Or maybe you won a judgment in court, but the debtor has yet to pay the money? It might be time to consider using garnishment to get your money back. Read on to learn all about garnishment so you can make an informed decision whether or not to use this legal tool.

What is a Garnishment?

A garnishment can be used to divert a portion of a debtor’s paycheck or money from their bank to start paying your back, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You won’t be able to take your debtor’s entire paycheck or empty their bank account to get your money back, but you can start getting paid in installments until the debt is paid off or resolved in another way.

What’s Required to Garnish

According to NerdWallet.com, most garnishments require a court order, usually obtained after a judgment against the debtor. In some cases, such as paying overdue child support, a court order is not required. If you win a judgment against the debtor, once you file the proper paperwork to place a garnishment, you’ll start getting paid within five to 30 business days.

Types of Debt

Garnishments can be used to pay back personal loans. You can also use a garnishment to get child support and alimony. If you own a particular type of business, such as a medical service, you can also use garnishment to get outstanding invoices paid. Finally, consumer debts also qualify for garnishments.

Income Exempt from Garnishment

Certain types of income are exempt from garnishment in Washington state, according to Washington Law Help. For example, social security disability, retirement and unemployment compensation benefits are exempt unless you owe child support. State welfare and state disability payments are also exempt in Washington.

In addition, in Washington, no wages can be garnished if the debtor makes less than $253.75 per week or $1,099.33 per month. If the debtor makes more than these amounts, he can still keep 75% of his take home pay, says Washington Law Help. That means you may be able to garnish the rest.

Filling in the Paperwork

You must fill out the proper legal forms to provide the required notices and get the list of rights for exemptions. We offer a do-it-yourself Garnishment Kit you can instantly download and start filling in. Or you can order a print version we’ll mail to you. Click here to order the Garnishment Kit.

 

5 Things to Know About Probate in Washington State

Learn all about probate in Washington state.

Have you heard the term “probate?” Do you know about probate in Washington state?

Probate is the official term for settling an estate after a person dies. According to Dickson Frohlich, a Washington state law firm, probate is the process of administering an estate and making distributions to family members based on the provisions of a will. Probate also involves collecting assets and settling debts.

Probate helps prevent fraud once a person dies since it stops any further action from being taken until a judge decides if the will is valid. Sometimes people file for probate because of issues related to the decedent’s personal property..

Is There A Will?

If the decedent left a will, the executor of the will is responsible for filing probate, if needed. The executor of an estate or the attorney who represents the estate starts the probate process. After this person files proper documents, the probate court then validates the decedent’s will and allows the executor or attorney to distribute the estate, pay all final bills and take care of any taxes due.

What Happens if No Will?

If the decedent did not leave a will, the state will choose someone to administer the estate. Usually, a surviving spouse or a child of adult age is appointed by the court. This person then follows the judge’s instructions as to how the deceased’s property is handled.

Required or Not in Washington State?

Probate in Washington state is not required, says the Public Law Library of King County’s website. Probate isn’t even required in situations where the decedent does not have a will in Washington state.

So why file probate in Washington state? PLLKC says the two most common reasons for probate are because the decedent’s personal properly is valued at more than $100,000 or the person has real property titled in their name. For estates of $100,000 or less, PLLKC says you may be able to file a Small Estate Affidavit instead of a probate. We offer an instant download Small Estate Affidavit with all of the forms you need to complete and file with the court.

 Other Reasons to File Probate

If you need to access a safe deposit box, pay debts, distribute assets or handle a lawsuit in the defendant’s name, you need to probate, says PLLKC. We offer an instant download of a do-it-yourself Probate Kit that helps you fill in the necessary paperwork and file it with the court to start the probate process. Choose a Probate Kit with Will or a Probate Kit Without a Will.

 Ways to Avoid Probate

If you can avoid probate, NerdWallet says to do so, since probate can be slow, costly and is a matter of public record. Establishing a living trust is one option to avoid probate. Another way to avoid probate when it comes to property is to designate your spouse or whomever you want to become a joint owner. In some states, small estates can avoid probate if the estate falls under the probate estate limits.

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

 

 

National Preparedness Month: Estate Planning – Understanding Wills, Trusts, and Power of Attorney

Estate planning is key for protecting your loved ones and distributing your property the way you choose.

September is National Preparedness Month! Being prepared includes taking time for long-term estate planning. Estate planning explains how your assets will be managed and/or distributed if you become incapacitated.

If you don’t have a will or trust in place, your wishes will not matter. Worse yet, if your family relies on you, they could really suffer. Don’t let this happen to your loved ones, especially if you have family members who rely on you for their very survival. Without a plan in place, your family is left to haggle with the courts (and maybe each other) to settle your estate.

Follow our guide below to get an overview of the various types of assets. Then learn the differences between the basic options in estate planning – wills, trusts, and power of attorney. Then you can make a more informed decision about which ones you use to make your wishes known so the right people and organizations receive what you want to give them.

Assets

Assets cover a wide range of useful or valuable things. Real estate, cars, your home, personal property, investments and cash are all considered assets. Assets include investments such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Life insurance is also considered an asset. Personal property, such as collections you own, furniture, antiques, tools, etc., are also considered assets. If you own a business, assets include inventory, equipment, property and accounts receivable.

Nowadays, digital assets also need to be accounted for, including online accounts such as PayPal, bank accounts, investments, social media pages, photos and documents you’ve stored online or in the cloud. Read our blog post, 5 Things you Need to Know about Digital Assets, for more information.

Estate Planning

Making a will, setting up a trust and choosing a power of attorney are all components of estate planning. Estate planning includes managing your assets and deciding how those assets will be distributed once you can no longer make decisions or pass away. Estate planning also involves making plans for your care as well as others who rely on you for their care and support. A carefully thought out estate plan will also keep taxes to a minimum. An attorney can help you create an estate plan that covers all of the bases. See our list of estate planning attorneys who work in Washington state.

Wills

Writing a will as part of estate planning is critical if you don’t want the state deciding how your assets will be distributed. A will is a legal document that describes your wishes for handling your property and assets. There are a few requirements: you must be sounds of mind, 18 years of age or older and in Washington state, you need witnesses to the will. There are a few things a will cannot cover – learn more by reading our recent blog post, Need a Will? What You Need to Know to Write Your Will.

Trusts

Some people prefer to create a trust to determine how their assets will be handled in case they become incapacitated. Trusts are also created to outline how money and assets will be distributed to beneficiaries upon their death. According to an article by AARP, people with larger estates may choose to set up a trust rather than a will. AARP says that setting up a trust minimizes the probate process. It can also provide long-term support for family members with unique needs. Trusts can also be set up to limit the money a beneficiary receives at any one time, says AARP.

 Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, your power of attorney can make decisions about your health and assets on your behalf. A power of attorney also manages or pays bills, handles your investments, etc. Most people choose a trusted friend or relative as their power of attorney. We offer to-it-yourself legal kits and forms to set up your power of attorney – click HERE, then scroll down to the “Power of Attorney” kits.

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

Parenting Plan: Six Tips for Creating a Successful Plan

A solid parently plan focuses on your kids' needs.

Writing a successful parenting plan that works for both of you and gets approval by the court can feel like a complicated process. Yet its importance when it comes to determining child custody responsibilities cannot be overstated. In the end, the plan should help your children feel both parents are on the same page when it comes to their well-being while helping them to accept and adjust to the divorce.

Follow these six tips to write a parenting plan that shows the court you are taking the proper steps to do what’s in your child’s best interests.

Put Children First

Look at the day-to-day custody through your child’s eyes. That requires putting emotion aside and focusing on what your kids really need for stability. Verywell Family, a website that provides advice on parenting, suggests looking at their daily lives to see how it looks from their point of view. Will they be able to keep attending school and current activities? Will they miss certain events or activities? What will they gain from the custody arrangement?

Consider Mitigating or Limiting Factors

Both of you must consider any mitigating or limiting factors which might impact the placement of the children and their contact with the non-placement parent. You must also look at abuse or other behavioral issues and how they could negatively impact your kids. Sometimes, it is behavior or special needs of the children themselves that influence how the court ultimately considers when issuing the final order of parenting.

Create a Schedule

Plan to create a parenting schedule in Washington state. This schedule will show who has custody of the children on a day-to-day basis. The plan explains how much time your children will spend with of you. Remember to indicate who will have the kids on birthdays, vacations, holidays and during other events, too. Include information on how you both plan to follow the schedule, such as by using online calendar apps such as Talking Parents or Cozi.

Cover Other Needs

Decide in writing who will pay for what when it comes to expenses related to extracurricular expenses and events, such as birthdays, going to camp, entertainment, etc. Also include how you and your co-parent plan to handle big decisions, such as religious choices and events, discipline, education and health issues. Explain how you’ll work out major disagreements.

Consider a Relocation

In Washington state, your plan must include an explanation of what happens if you or your co-parent want to move with the child. For more information on Washington’s Relocation Law, visit Washington LawHelp.

Consider a Do-It-Yourself Plan

We offer a do-it-yourself Parenting Plan that was developed in 2017 as a Washington State Mandatory form. The plan is included in our Divorce Forms Kit with Children and our Legal Separation Kit, among others (click here to see all of our Family Law kits). You may prefer to hire an attorney who can help you create a parenting plan. Click here to see a list of attorneys who handle these types of cases.

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

The Latest in Washington State Scams and How to Protect Yourself

If you’re a scammer, there’s money to be made from unsuspecting people who haven’t got their “scam” radar on high alert. Here are the latest scams we’ve heard about in Washington satte. Then check out the links and tipsat the end to help report a scam as well as avoid them in the first place.

You’ve Won the Lottery!

If you receive a letter bearing the Mega Millions logo saying you won a “Mega Millions Prize, watch out, especially if the envelope contains a counterfeit check, too. Unfortunately, you haven’t won anything, and if you’re not careful, you may end up giving personal financial information to the scammers. That’s the point behind this counterfeit draft money laundering scheme. If you deposit the check, it will be sent to the scammer with your bank’s routing and account information on it, allowing them to withdraw everything in your account. Contact Mega Millions if you feel you’ve been scammed.

Time Share Sale

Beware of companies offering to sell your timeshare. According to Timeshare Specialists, a couple in Washington received a call from a company offering to sell their timeshare. Sounds legit so far, right? Then the caller asks you to wire money for legal fees they need to pay upfront. Scam! Brokers usually pay legal fees from the money made from the sale of the timeshare.

Foreclosure Rescue

Once a home goes into foreclosure, information about the property becomes a public record. That’s when scammers start working. Watch out for companies calling and offering a loan to rescue you. Sadly, this is a scam to buy your house out from under you for pennies on the dollar. Click here to read up on this scam on the Attorney General of Washington’s website.

You Owe the IRS!

This ongoing scam is still its way around the state. The scam involves callers pretending to be from the IRS and demanding you make an immediate payment to avoid jail time. Even the Caller ID looks like it’s from the IRS so it looks more official. How do you know it’s a scam? First, the IRS will not call you first; they always send an official letter about past due taxes. Secondly, the IRS never ask for your credit or debit card information on the phone. If the caller threatens to call law enforcement, hang up immediately – this is a sure sign it’s a scam.

 

Tips to Avoid Scams

Register with National Do Not Call Registry

Register your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry. You can do so online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. That way, you can assume any telemarketing calls that come in after you register are scams, and can hang up without worrying.

Watch Caller ID

Caller ID is great for identifying who’s calling so you can decide from whom you want to take calls. But nowadays, scammers can change the number that shows up on Caller ID. This scam is called “spoofing.” The scammers want you to think you think the call is a legitimate local business so you’ll answer.

Hang Up

Sure it feels rude to just hang up on someone. But once scammers have you on the phone, they’re that much closer to closing a deal that takes money out of your pockets and puts it there own. Don’t be afraid to hang up. Then, block the caller’s number, if possible.

 

Report the Scam

If you’ve been the victim of a scam or want to report one, visit Access Washington’s website. Select the type of scam you’re concerned about, and then click the category to get detailed information on how to report it. If you’ve been the victim of a scammer pretending to be with the IRS, file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

File a Complaint

If you’ve already been the victim of a telemarketing scam, find out how to file a complaint with the Washington State Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Agency. You can file a complaint online or by mail. You can also call and talk to someone about what happened.

 

Eviction Checklist: What You Need to Know to Evict a Tenant in Washington State

Use this eviction checklist to evict a tenant in Washington State.

Are you a landlord who wants to evict a tenant? Use our eviction checklist to learn what you need to know to evict a tenant in Washington state. The first step is to know the tenant/landlord laws so you know what’s legal and illegal. Secondly, identify the legal reason for the eviction, and finally, you’re ready to prepare an eviction notice.

Understand State Law

Look up Washington’s official state statutes to find out what’s applicable in our state. Look for the Landlord and Tenant Act,. available from the Washington State Attorney’s office. You can also visit Landlordology’s website to get started. You’ll want to read up on how to handle security deposits, including pet deposits and damages to the house or unit. Understanding what is and isn’t allowed when collecting rent, giving notices, entering the unit, handling late fees and providing receipts are also important.

Read Up on Local Ordinances

Besides reading up on Washington’s tenant/landlord state laws, you must also become familiar with county and city ordinances. For instance, if your rental is in Seattle, visit the city’s City Hall website page at Seattle.gov.

Understand Valid Reasons for Eviction

You need a legal reason to evict a tenant in Washington state. You also need to give fair notice. Acts such as the tenant’s failure to pay rent, violating the lease, causing damage or creating safety hazards are just a few of the reasons you can evict a tenant. Money rashers says you can also evict a tenant if they stay after the lease expires. They recommend understanding state requirements on handling minor infractions and how much time you must give the tenant to correct infractions before pursuing an eviction.

Don’t Do These Things!

According to RentPrep, there are several things you cannot do legally to evict a tenant in Washington state, including changing the locks or moving the tenant’s belongings. RentPrep also says it is illegal to turn off the tenant’s utilities or make threats against them.

Prepare an Eviction Notice

Once you decide to evict a tenant in Washington state, you need to fill in a complete set of Washington state eviction forms in order to create the notice. We offer a kit that contains all forms required as well as additional forms and procedures for creating an eviction in the City of Seattle. Instructions are included, making this a relatively easy way to keep costs down while filling in and filing the paperwork yourself to start the eviction process. You can buy this kit as an instant download and use it immediately. Or order a print copy we’ll mail to you. The kit includes a Procedural Information Sheet that provides:

Landlord Storage of Personal Property of Tenant Information
Seattle Landlord – Tenant Laws & Washington State Regulations, with information for Tenants
Acknowledgement – Seattle Landlord-Tenant Laws
Notice to Pay Rent or Quit Premises
Notice to Conform to Obligations of Tenancy
Notice to Conform to Obligations of Tenancy – City of Seattle specific
Notice to Terminate Tenancy
Notice to Terminate Tenancy – City of Seattle specific
Case Assignment Designation
Case Information Sheet
Complaint for Unlawful Detainer (Residential)
Eviction Summons
Payment or Sworn Statement Requirement
Motion and Affidavit for Order to Show Cause
Order to Show Cause
Affidavit of Service
Plaintiff’s Motion and Declaration for Order of Default
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law; Judgment; and Order for Writ of Restitution
Writ of Restitution
Order of Default
Declaration re: Service Members Civil Relief Act
List of free legal clinics, if you need help filling out forms

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