Estate planning and probate

Probate

Probate is the legal process for distributing a person's property 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 what you need to do as well as how to do it.

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 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.

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.

Wills

The King County Law Library has a video explaining the basics of a Will and an infographic with the requirements for a Will.

An overview of estate planning in Washington is available on the Washington LawHelp website.

Instructions to write a simple Will can be found on the Washington Wills website as well as information about the minimum requirements for a valid Will in the State of Washington.

Electronic wills, which can be signed and stored electronically rather than in paper, will be 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.

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 care for their minor children temporarily.

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

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.