Terminally-Ill Estate Procedures

Terminally-Ill Estate Procedures

Having a terminally-ill family member is one of the most painful and trying times a person can face, and thinking about getting their estate in order only makes the situation more stressful. To make sure all their affairs are in order, it’s important you follow Washington State legal procedures and ensure you have access to all documents necessary.


Document Checklist

  • Will

    • The most important item you need to have is your family member’s verified will. A verified will is signed in the presence of two witnesses and distributed the family member’s personal property as they wish.
    • Some Items don’t get included in the probate/will process because they already have beneficiaries. If your family member wants to leave these assets to someone, they need to list them as a beneficiary:
      • 40Ks, IRAs
      • Life Insurance
      • Living Trusts
      • Joint tenancy real estate
      • Pay-on-death bank and investment accounts
  • Deeds and Titles

    • It’s important to review beneficiaries and dependents on leases, mortgages, and property deeds prior to your family members death
  • Insurance Policies

    • Any insurance policies your family member is listed in should be reviewed. You don’t want to be surprised by unexpected clauses and deal with insurance companies after their client has passed
  • Financial Accounts

    • As with insurance policies, you don’t want to be caught by surprise with unknown assets that aren’t included in the will. 
    • Financial advisors can help ensure everything is covered and accounted for, and if your family lived the type of life where they might have assets in different banks, states, or countries, a financial advisor is definitely recommended.
  • Proof of Relationship

    • If you are related through marriage or adoption, proof of relationship will be required
    • If you or your loved one have gone through name changes, property settlements, marriages, divorces, or other legal procedures, ensure you have documented proof of it.
  • List of Names

    • Build a list of contacts for your family member, made up of extended family, friends, lawyers, accountants, and doctors.
    • Include a family tree, especially if they do not have a verified will.


If They Don’t Have A Will

If your loved one doesn’t have a verified will, it is highly recommended that you help them create one while they’re still alive. While there are set lines of inheritance for those without a verified will, it is always preferable to follow the wishes of the deceased as they declared them. 


Things to Do

  • Cancel/Pay Bills

    • If your family member has been moved to assisted-living or end-of-life care in a hospital they no longer need to be paying their utility, cable, and phone bills. Make a list of recurring bill payments and cancel them or transfer them.
  • Look After Their Physical Property

    • If your loved one has real estate and/or pets or items that need looking after, ensure that they are being taken care of.
  • Forward Any Mail 

    • Contact their local post office and set up a forwarding address
  • Make Arrangements with an Estate Lawyer

    • You can never be too sure that all affairs are in order

This list is nowhere near comprehensive, and it’s almost inevitable that unexpected assets will appear and put a wrench in the plan you have already made. The best way to avoid getting caught up in bureaucracy during the most stressful time of your life is to have comprehensive plans and plans in the case that your original plans fall apart. Contact us for a consultation and advice on how to proceed.

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