Have You Prepared Your Estate For When You Die And What Should You Consider Making Sure You Have Done Sooner Rather Than Later?

Preparing for one’s one death can feel challenging to grabble with, but properly preparing your estate will help your loved ones navigate your passing without the added burden of determining what your wishes would have been.

How and when you prepare your estate may differ based on your age.

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How to Talk to Your Parents About Estate Planning

It’s hard to watch adored parents age. But in order for you to best take care of them in life and in death, creating an estate plan will help.

Some parents are not proactive about estate planning or perhaps you wonder which sibling will be the executor. It’s a good idea to talk with your parents about their estate plan and a good attorney can help.

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Hard Questions to Ask When Planning Your Estate

When creating your estate plan, you will be faced with some hard questions about how you want your property and assets distributed, as well as about your end of life care. You’ll also need to choose an executor to manage your will and estate after you pass. Here are some questions you’ll need to ask yourself while estate planning.

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Questions To Ask When Hiring An Estate Planning Attorney

Creating a proper estate plan will help ensure your wishes about end of life care and your funeral, as well as, how your property and assets are distributed after death. The best way to ensure your estate plan will be executed smoothly is to hire an estate planning attorney.

Asking your lawyer a few questions will help you pick the best estate planning attorney for you and will help understand your options and determine the best path forward for you.

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My Parents Died, What Do I Do Now?

Losing a parent comes with a mix of emotions ranging from sadness, nostalgia and perhaps confusion about what the next steps should be in settling their estate. If both of your parents have now died, their child is likely their next of kin and therefore inherits their estate.

First, request multiple copies of your parent’s death certificate from the funeral home, this will help you settle their estate. What you need to do next depends on if your parents have a will. Your first step is to find the will. Ideally, your parents discussed their estate planning with you before passing away. If that’s not the case, start by attempting to contact your parent’s attorney or estate lawyer. If that proves fruitless, search your parents’ office, home safe, a safety deposit box. 

If you’re still struggling to find the will, go to probate court to search real estate transfer-on-death certificates and see if they designated there who should inherit their property. [1]

What To Do If Your Parents Have A Will In Washington State

If your parents created a will this makes your job as executor easier. As their will clearly expresses your parents’ wishes of what should be done with their property and assets, now you need to execute those wishes. [2] While you can do a lot of the work yourself, you’ll likely still need the help of an estate lawyer to streamline the process. [3]

Now that you’ve found the will, your first role as executor will be to determine if the settling of the estate needs to go through probate, which is the official court process of settling an estate. [4] Usually, “small” estates or estates that have clear transfers of property through trusts, beneficiary designations will not have to go through probate. 

As executor, you’ll need to settle your parents’ estate obligations and pay any debts and bills. Next, your role is to distribute your parents’ property, which can be done when probate is over. [5] However, if there is not enough money to pay the debts, the executor must sell the property to

settle those debts. Once the bills are paid, the property and assets are distributed and probate is over, the executor has completed his or her job. 

What To Do If Your Parents Do Not Have A Will In Washington State

Each state has a set of laws that determines who inherits property if the deceased person did not have a plan in place prior to dying. [6] Without a living spouse, biological children and legally adopted children are the likely beneficiaries. It’s important to note that stepchildren are not seen as children under the eyes of the law unless they too have been legally adopted. [7]

Without a will, the court will use intestate succession to distribute property. [8] In both Texas and Washington State law, when the deceased person’s spouse is also deceased, the children inherit everything.[9] [10] 

Settling Your Parents’ Estate In Washington State

Keep in mind that settling an estate can take a couple of months to even a couple of years depending on its complexity. Enlisting the help of an estate lawyer, who can help shepherd you through the process can help speed it up and ensure it’s completed correctly.

If you or a loved one recently lost your parents and need some guidance navigating settling an estate, probate or will in Washington State, call our wills and estate attorney Roger Priest. He can help guide you through your unique legal situation.


  1. Nolo. “Transfer-on-death deeds for Real Estate.” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/transfer-death-deeds-real-estate
  2.  Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “Will & Probate FAQ” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/wills-and-probate-faq.html
  3.  Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “Duties of an Executor.” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/the-duties-of-an-executor.html
  4.  Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “Duties of an Executor.” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/the-duties-of-an-executor.html
  5.  Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “Duties of an Executor.” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/the-duties-of-an-executor.html
  6.  Simmons Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will?” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/what-happens-when-you-dont-have-a-will.html
  7.  Simmons, Hannibal, Betsy. Lawyers.com. “Beneficiaries in a Will.” https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/trusts-estates/wills-probate/beneficiaries-in-a-will.html
  8.  Nolo. “Intestate Succession” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/intestate-succession
  9.  Nolo. “Intestate Succession in Texas.” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/intestate-succession-texas.html
  10.  Nolo. “Intestate Succession in Washington.”https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/intestate-succession-washington.html