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After a death, family members must take legal considerations into account. This helps ensure that the following days can be spent grieving and planning a funeral while personal and financial assets are taken care of.
You do not have to hire an attorney, although Funeral Alternatives of Washington highly recommends doing so. (We cannot offer legal advice.) Lawyers help you through difficult decisions and trivial matters without bias or emotions.
When you contact a lawyer, make sure that you have these documents ready (some of these documents might not pertain to your situation):
- Wills, trusts, and advanced healthcare directives
- Bank Statements
- Insurance Policies
- Vehicle and boat titles
- Tax documents
Here are some other legal considerations that may help ease your stress so that you can focus on what truly matters: honoring your loved one:
Getting a Death Certificate
Before any proceedings or planning can occur, you must get a Certified Death Certificate. We can take care of getting you as many copies as you need. We recommend getting multiple copies, as some agencies you may deal with will not accept a photocopy of the certificate.
Bank Accounts and Information
Contact the bank immediately after your loved one’s passing. If it is not a joint account, ask about the necessary procedures to release these funds safely. Keep a joint account open long enough for any checks to clear or to pay forgotten bills.
Does Your Loved One Have an Executor?
An executor is the person who represents your estate, in charge of paying off debts, controlling your assets, and distributing them to the beneficiaries on your will.
If you’re choosing an executor, be aware that you can choose anyone, but they must be trustworthy and of an able mind.
Create a Will
A will contains your instructions for distributing your estate after you pass away. Without a will, a probate court will decide what happens to your estate, who your beneficiaries are, and what happens to any minor children.
You do not need a lawyer to write a will, but a will should:
- Be signed and dated by two or three witnesses who will not inherit anything in the will
- State that is the “Last Will and Testament,” and your legal name
- Be typed on a computer or typewriter
You must be over 18 years old and of sound mind to write a legal will. We strongly suggest having an attorney review your will to ensure it is legally valid. Keep your will in a safe, lock box, or other secure location.
Create an Advanced Healthcare Directive
An advanced healthcare directive (sometimes called a healthcare proxy) is a legal document that authorizes an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to. A healthcare proxy can be a family member, friend, or an attorney.
Closing Social Media or Streaming Accounts
Most people have at least one social media or streaming account (like Hulu). Your end-of-life plans should also include information for an authorized agent to close these accounts.
Funeral Alternatives of Washington is available to help guide you toward the answers and assistance you need. Call us at (360) 523-2489 to discuss your needs with a funeral professional.