How Did We Answer That?
We had a patron whose mother died in Kentucky. This was during the pandemic so travel from Oregon to Kentucky was not very practical. His sister still lived in the area, so he contacted us asking for ideas on how to help his sister with the estate. He wanted to do some research on finding a lawyer, being an executor of the will, and if there was anything he could do to help remotely.
Even though he was interested in Kentucky procedures, there were still some things we could point him to here in our library that he could read and let his sister know about. There are many NOLO books (which both law libraries and public libraries usually carry) dealing with wills and estate planning. Since NOLO books are not state specific these were a good primer for the patron and his sister. In Oregon we have access to NOLO books online thanks to the State of Oregon Law Library. A public library may have information about a similar problem in another state.
If we were helping a patron with Oregon law, there are a few resources we would recommend and luckily it is easy to find another state’s equivalents using an online search engine.
We would first recommend they check with the local court in the county where the issue is occurring. There might be forms and information available at the courthouse or online. Court clerks generally are not allowed to give legal advice, but they may be able to suggest programs their court might have in place, or places to do your own research.
Another suggestion would be to find a law library in the state the issue is in and see what services they offer to non-attorneys doing legal research. Not all states have a statutory requirement for county law libraries like Oregon does, but you may be able to find a law library by doing an online search. Possible places might be a local university that has a law program, or sometimes the local court might have a law library that is open to the public. Be sure to check with the institution before visiting. Some university law libraries are not open to the public and some court law libraries don’t have a librarian or other staff on duty to help or may have other restrictions.
We also recommend that patrons contact the state bar association and see what resources they have for finding an attorney. Some bar association websites may have information on different aspects of the law for non-attorneys.
Another suggestion we have for patrons is to contact local legal aid organizations, which again, are easy to find in an online search. Legal aid organizations may have helpful information for free on their website. LawHelp.org is a central website that allows you to search by state for legal aid websites. Each site offers state-specific information on multiple legal topics.
This patron was able to help with the estate remotely and give his sister some resources that would help settle the estate without too much delay.