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Vancouver Washington Legal Blog

Who needs an estate plan?

The death of a public figure or wealthy celebrity can bring into focus the true need that many people have for creating solid, legally enforceable estate plans. The news abounds with stories of individuals who failed to create wills that outlined their testamentary desires or that failed to provide clarity on delicate preferences on inheritance. Despite the cautionary tales that Washington residents may read in the local newspaper about failing to have estate plans in place, many people feel as though estate plans are just not relevant to their lives.

This is usually a fallacy. Any person who owns anything can benefit from having an estate plan. Estate plans are not for only the rich or powerful: they are useful tools that give regular individuals the power to decide how their wealth and assets will be divided up when they pass away.

How does a bankruptcy filing protect the debtor from creditors?

Many people in Vancouver have overindulged in credit card purchases, and they are unable to make even the required minimum monthly payments. Caught between creditors seeking payments and lack of money to pay their debts, these individuals frequently see their situations as hopeless. Filing for bankruptcy is not a perfect remedy, but it has several advantages that can provide both short term and permanent relief. One of the most effective such provisions is the so-called "automatic stay."

When a person files a bankruptcy petition under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 11, the petition must be accompanied by a list of all of the debtor's creditors. The filing of the petition operates as a stay against any and all collection activity by the debtor's creditors. The stay applies to many types of collection actions, including court actions, enforcement of judgments, any action to obtain possession of property belonging to the bankrupt estate or create, perfect or enforce any lien against property of the bankruptcy estate. Among the most important effects of the stay is to shut off collection efforts involving harassing phone calls or threatening letters.

Understanding the best interests of the child

Courts in Washington are required to make many decisions involving the future welfare of children whose parents are no longer, or never were, married. One of the bedrock concepts in Washington family law underlies all of these decisions: the best interests of the child. An understanding of this concept is essential for parents who no longer reside with the other parent of their children.

The Washington legislature has defined best interests of the child by passing a declaration of state policy. The policy recognizes that parents have the initial responsibility to make decisions about their child's education, health care and similar matters that affect the child's growth and maturity. The policy also recognizes that the relationship between each parent and the child should be encouraged and fostered, unless the parent's relationship with the child is contrary to the child's best interests. In this respect, the legislative definition is somewhat circular.

Are prenuptial agreements enforceable in Washington?

Prenuptial agreements have become more frequent in the last twenty years, and many engaged couples wonder if such agreements are enforceable in Washington and if they should sign one. The answer to both questions is "It depends." Premarital agreements are enforceable if they meet certain standards laid down by the state's appellate courts, and the advisability of entering into such an agreement depends upon the financial circumstances of the marrying couple.

Unlike most states, Washington has not adopted a statute governing the enforceability of premarital agreements. Instead, the courts have worked out a case-by-case test. Premarital agreements are contracts, and their enforceability is judged by rules applicable to other contracts. The agreement must be in writing and fully understood by both parties. The agreement must be fair, considering the circumstances of both parties. Both parties must make full disclosure about their assets, and hiding information about assets or other fraudulent conduct can render a premarital contract void. A breach of one or more provisions of the agreement can also render the contract unenforceable.

Preventable errors may causes problems with your estate plan

Washington readers understand the importance of having a strong estate plan in place. With a complete estate plan, you can care for your loved ones and have peace of mind regarding the future. However, a few simple mistakes can actually derail your plans for the future and cause complications for beneficiaries.

Estate planning errors can cause complex issues, but thankfully, you can avoid them by carefully reviewing your plans. No matter your age, income level or size of your estate, it is prudent to carefully review and update your plans on a regular basis. This simple step can reduce the chance that a mistake will catch you by surprise in the future. 

Wrong-way driver hits four cars and kills one person

People who have been convicted of drunk driving seem to have difficulty in controlling the behavior that got them in trouble. A recent head-on collision on I-5 in Shohomish County involved an allegedly intoxicated driver who, according to police, had a long history of prior alcohol-related violations.

The accident occurred when the suspected drunk driver entered I-5 by heading north in the freeway's southbound lanes. The northbound car had four separate collisions with other vehicles. The last of the four crashes was a head-on collision that killed the driver of the other car. A state trooper stated in an affidavit that he observed "open containers of alcohol" in the defendant's vehicle. The trooper also said that he detected a "strong odor" of intoxicants in the defendant's vehicle. The defendant was allegedly heard to tell a trooper that he drank a lot.

What is a 341 meeting in a bankruptcy proceeding?

Chapters 7 and 13 of the Bankruptcy Code have many differences, but one similarity is the compulsory meeting of the debtor and his or her creditors. The meeting is required by Sec. 341 of the Bankruptcy Code, and hence, such meetings are known as 341 meetings. Because the meetings are compulsory, an understanding of their procedure and significance can help a debtor navigate the bankruptcy process.

Every debtor, regardless of whether the bankruptcy petition is filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, must attend a meeting with creditors. The meeting is usually scheduled between 20 and 60 days after the petition is filed. The bankruptcy trustee presides at the meeting, and the bankruptcy judge does not attend. The debtor is placed under oath, and the trustee and creditors examine the debtor about his or her individual property, debts, income and general financial condition. The trustee will use this information to determine if the debtor has assets that could be liquidated to pay the claims of creditors. The meeting is recorded and the recording is maintained by the clerk of bankruptcy court.

Driver faces DUI charge after hitting another car and restaurant

Closed circuit television cameras have become so commonplace in modern commerce that their presence is often overlooked unless their lenses may have captured an accident or crime. In a recent two-vehicle accident in Woodland, Washington, surveillance cameras captured almost every second of the incident. This resulted in police issuing drunk driving charges against one man.

The first surveillance camera captured an image of a Mercedes van leaving the traffic lane, crossing the sidewalk and then hitting the side of an SUV that was stopped at the intersection. The van then smashes into the side of a restaurant on the corner. A second CCTV video showed a pedestrian standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant looking at a billboard. The man appeared to see and barely avoid the SUV, which was moving after being hit by the Mercedes. The SUV careened into restaurant seating on the sidewalk.

Alcohol blamed for 3-vehicle accident on I-84 in Gresham

Alcohol is commonly blamed for multi-vehicle traffic accidents, but usually only one driver is charged with an alcohol-related traffic violation. A three-vehicle accident on I-84 in Gresham has the unusual distinction of involving two allegedly intoxicated drivers.

According to police, a suspected drunken driver allegedly smashed his car into the back end of a semi-trailer truck while both were headed west on I-84. Both the truck and the car stopped. The driver of the car was getting out of his vehicle when a pickup truck rammed into his car and broke his leg. The driver of the pickup was also alleged to have been driving under the influence of alcohol.

When is legal separation the right choice for Washington couples?

There are times in which Washington couples may find themselves in a situation where they want to formally end their relationship, but a divorce is not an option. In these cases, separation is a possibility. This is also an option for a couple who wants to formally separate for an extended period of time before moving forward with divorce. 

If you believe that a separation is the right choice for you, you would be wise to ensure you have taken the appropriate steps to ensure it is legal and enforceable. If you need to draft a legal separation agreement, it is prudent to have experienced guidance as you do so.


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