Preparing in advance for the end of your life can be very helpful for your family members and can help make sure your wishes are carried out.
- Legal Voice has information about planning for death as well as a checklist of important documents and information you should put in writing as part of the estate planning process.
- Legal Voice has information about Basic Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples.
- SoundGenerations.org has an overview of estate planning documents including Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living Wills.
- The Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program has created an Estate Planning for Beginners video in which two attorneys discuss how to plan ahead for the future.
- Washington LawHelp has information about and a link to the Putting My House in Order Form that contains all the death certificate information the funeral director will need, your wishes for burial, and indicate your organ donation preference.
A Will is a document that provides for the distribution of certain property owned by an individual after their death. A typical Will includes instructions regarding how property is to be distributed among beneficiaries and nominates a personal representative (commonly referred to as an executor) to administer the estate in accordance with the Will.
For information about making a Will:
- The King County Law Library has a video explaining the basics of a Will and an infographic with the requirements for a Will
- Nolo has an article, Making a Will in Washington, that outlines the requirements for and process of making a Will
- Navigate Law Group has a blog post about making your own Will
- The Washington Wills website has instructions that can help you write a simple Will as well as a free model form that can be modified
Electronic Wills, which can be signed and stored electronically rather than in paper, are allowed beginning January 1, 2022, under the Washington Uniform Electronic Wills Act. The Final Bill Report has a summary of the effects of the law. More information about this new law is available from King County Probates and from the National Notary Association.
You can file your original Will with the court for unsealing after you die. The Superior Court Clerk's Office has more information about the Will repository service.
There are many different types of trusts, some of which are created during the trustor’s lifetime and others that are created only after death. Different trusts have different purposes, such as minimizing estate taxes or providing for a family member.
Trusts in Washington are governed by Chapter 11.98 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
- Puget Law has an article, All about Trusts, that explains some of the different types of trusts
- Navigate Law Group has a blog post about the Use of Trusts in Estate Planning that explains why you might want to create a trust as a part of your plan
- The Washington (State) Probate website has a chart that compares Wills vs. Living Trusts
- The Washington State Bar Association has a brochure about Revocable Living Trusts that has detailed information about this type of trust
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney document lets you choose a trusted friend or relative to help you with your finances and/or health care decisions.
- Washington LawHelp has very simple forms for a Durable Power of Attorney for either health care or finances that can be printed and filled out, or use their interactive interview to create the completed forms to print. There is a form to revoke a previous power of attorney included in the packet.
- If you only need a Special Power of Attorney to allow someone else to buy or sell a house on your behalf, there are forms from the Washington State Bar Association.
Health Care Directives (Living Wills)
A Health Care Directive is a form that lets you say what kind of medical treatments you do or do not want if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and cannot make decisions for yourself. It names a person to speak on your behalf and gives them guidance about your wishes.
- Washington LawHelp has a directive designed for general health care decisions that can be printed and filled out, or use their interactive interview to create the completed forms to print.
- There is a directive for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia to state their preferences in advance for when their mental abilities decline.
- Washington LawHelp has a mental health advance directive describes what you want to happen if your mental health problems become so severe that you need help from others.
- If you are seriously ill or in very poor health, Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) can be used by your doctor as a medical order to represent your wishes for future care.
Self-help kit from the law library
The law library sells a Transfer on Death Deed self-help kit that includes forms and instructions to allow a property owner to transfer the property to another person as an inheritance when the property owner dies. The kit includes creating, recording, revoking, or claiming under a Transfer on Death Deed. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.