Estate planning and probate

Estate planning

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. 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 attorneys Christie Martin and Gabrielle Richards discuss how to plan ahead for the future. Topics covered include advanced directives, durable powers of attorney, powers of attorney for minor children, and more.

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. 


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. 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.

Transfer on Death Deeds

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.

Powers of Attorney

Washington LawHelp has very simple forms for a Durable Power of Attorney for either health care or finances, and a form to revoke a previous power of attorney.

Washington LawHelp also has information and forms for parents who want to give another adult Power of Attorney to temporarily care for their minor children.

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 on the Washington State Bar Association website.

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.

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.

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. Information, instructions, and a form are available from the Washington Health Care Authority.

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. This includes indicating what types of life-sustaining treatment you want or do not want in the case of a medical emergency, such as Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) orders.

Free eBooks about estate planning, wills, trusts, and more

Estate Planning basics book cover

Free eBooks about wills, trusts, estate planning, and related topics are available from Nolo Press -- one of the largest publishers of legal self-help books. This document shows how to find and view the books.

Log in to Nolo.

What to do after a death

Legal Voice has a checklist with a list of steps to take after death, including both immediate steps as well as later steps to take regarding property, finances, and papers. The list is available in English, Spanish, and Russian. 


Probate is the legal process for distributing a person's property and paying their debts after they have died. Information about probate, alternatives to probate, instructions, and forms is available at Washington (State) Probate. This website can help you decide if probate is necessary and learn about what you need to do and how to do it.

Nolo's legal encyclopedia has an overview of Washington probate that can also help you decide if probate is necessary and if a Small Estate Affidavit is an option.

King County Probates is a site created by an attorney in King County. While there is some information specific to that county, most of it is general information about forms and procedures that would apply anywhere in Washington.

The law library sells two self-help kits to assist with probate: Open and Close Probate With a Will (Testate), in which the person who died had a Will; and Open and Close Probate Without a Will (Intestate), in which the person who died did not have a Will. Both kits have forms and instructions to open and close a simple probate. They do not cover administration of the estate. Kits can be purchased at the library or online and mailed out.

Small Estates

A Small Estate Affidavit might apply to your situation. If you qualify, this process is cheaper and easier than the probate process. The King County Law Library has an infographic that may help you decide if you meet the requirements.

You can read information, get instructions, and download forms for a Small Estate Affidavit at Washington LawHelp.

The law library sells a Small Estate Affidavit self-help kit that includes flowcharts to help with decision-making and procedures as well as more detailed information and instructions.