Many seniors are uncomfortable with using legal services. Some fear the high cost. Others have a hard time understanding legal processes. There are resources for seniors needing legal help. The following are different types of legal resources available for free or low cost.
Justice without an attorney
Not every case requires Perry Mason. There are many tools available for the average citizen to resolve a dispute or take legal actions without representation form an attorney. Self representation, alternative dispute resolution and legal advocacy resources are sufficient for many issues that people face.
Self Help Legal Resources
People who want to represent themselves in a legal matter have a couple of resources at their disposal. For disputes resulting in damages of less than $7,500, small claims court is a venue to get before a judge without an attorney. Small claims court advisors (SLO and Santa Barbara County) can help with filing the appropriate forms and understanding small claims proceedings for any novice.
Each county (SLO and Santa Barbara) has a law library where a person can research legal issues and get assistance from the clerk in finding information on any legal topic. These libraries are open to the public. In Santa Barbara County the law libraries have an additional resource to help with self-representation called the Legal Resource Center. During certain hours an attorney employed by the center provides first come first serve legal advice at the law library at no cost.
Some disputes can be resolved without an attorney. One method is mediation. It is particularly helpful when all sides agree to participate. Mediation can be used to successfully resolve consumer, family, and landlord tenant disputes. Each county’s District Attorney’s office has a consumer mediation program (SLO and Santa Barbara) to help resolve disputes between businesses and customers. This is a great tool for someone who may have been taken advantage of by a misleading sales offer or an unscrupulous contractor. Many of the Boards and Bureaus of the California Department of Consumer Affairs offer consumers assistance in resolving disputes with businesses under their license. Click here to find out more about the Department of Consumer Affairs. In addition to these resources, both counties have non profit organizations (SLO and Santa Barbara) that offer mediation services for a variety of disputes. Mediation services typically cost a fraction of what one might pay in attorney fees.
Estate Planning services are rarely offered for free or at a reduced rate. The best way to save money is to do as much as you can yourself. For example, there are many free forms and seminars on how to complete an Advanced Health Care Directive for yourself. For people with simple estate plans the California Bar website has a standardized will form that you can use to draft a will. The bar also has several publications that can help you understand the different estate planning options like trusts and wills. Knowing what you want can help you save money when you finally sit down with an attorney.
If you have any questions about local resources for legal issues call us– we can help you find the right resources for you.