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Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any question below to reveal the answer.  If your question is not answered below, click here to ask it now.

What do I do when someone dies?

This is a list of some of the things that need to be done once someone has died. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list, and some items may not apply to your situation; however it is a guide to help you get started.

  • Death Certificate – Obtain about 10 days after death. Get several certified copies;
  • Call an attorney and make an appointment in order to determine the next steps to be taken.
  • Notify Social Security as soon as possible. They will notify Medicare. Sometimes the funeral home contacts social security for you (1-800-772-1213; www.socialsecurity.gov);
  • If the deceased was a Veteran, contact the Veteran’s Administration for possible death benefits (1-800-827-1000; www.va.gov);
  • Notify insurance companies (health, long term care, auto, home). They should refund any unused premiums;
  • Contact any financial advisors you use in order to manage any investment accounts. A tax return may need to be filed within a specific number of months;
  • Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license in order to prevent identity theft;
  • Notify administrators for any pension or employee benefits; and
  • Notify bank and credit card companies. Cancel credit cards.
  • Contact credit reporting agencies: Experion, Equifax, and TransUnion.  If there is a safety deposit box, open and inventory contents.  Have mail forwarded to Personal Representative/Successor Trustee.

What is a Will?

A Will or Last Will and Testament is a document that tells the court what you would like to do with your property when you die. You can make a valid will if you are 18 years of age and of sound mind. Your will must be in writing. It must be signed by you.

Your will must also be signed by two witnesses who see you sign the will. You must tell them it's your will. They must verify they saw you sign.

What happens if I die without a Will?

Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. If you die without a will in Washington, your property is divided among members of your family according to the Washington intestacy laws.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal agreement that has three parties to it: grantor, trustee and beneficiary.

Under this type of legal arrangement, the Grantor will transfer ownership of certain assets to the Trustee who will manage the assets for the benefit of the Beneficiary.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

In Washington, you can sign a durable power of attorney to appoint someone to handle your financial and health care matters if you become are unable to manage. 

What is Probate?

In Washington, if you die owning real estate or with assets in excess of $100,000 your estate will need to go through the probate process.

If you own no real estate, or your assets are less than $100,000 your estate can use a Small Estate Affidavit.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning is an umbrella that covers several types of documentation that provide for the distribution of your estate the way you want when you die.

What is a Health Care Directive (Living Will)?

This is a legal document that takes effect at the end of your life and communicates your wishes for treatment to your family and medical staff.