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Steps to Take After the Death of a Spouse or Loved One

Regardless of whether it occurs suddenly or after a long illness, the death of a spouse or loved one can cause emotional turmoil and disrupt every aspect of a person’s life. While people have different reactions to death, there are certain steps everyone should take after the death of a spouse or loved one to avoid complications with the administration of their estate. If you have questions about how to handle to loss of a family member or what you need to do to get your affairs in order, it is wise to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible.

Steps to Take After the Death of a Spouse or Loved One

The first thing you should do after the loss of a loved one or spouse is to determine if they left a Letter of Instruction, Disposition Authorization, or any other written instructions for their funeral or memorial service. Additionally, you should assess whether they designated a person to act as their agent with regard to making their final arrangements. Such designations are often included as part of a person’s Durable Power of Attorney for Health care. You should also investigate whether they prepaid for any funeral or burial services. Next, you should contact a funeral home to make arrangements for your loved one’s funeral or memorial services and cremation or burial.

The second step you should take following the death of your loved one is to contact your estate planning attorney. If you do not have an estate planning attorney, you should schedule a consultation with one. An estate planning attorney will be able to advise you of the additional steps you should take and guide you through the process. For example, an attorney can help you establish if your loved one set forth their final wishes in a will, and if so, if the will was executed properly. Under Washington law, a will must be written and must be signed in front of two witnesses to be valid. The witnesses must sign the will as well, in the presence of the testator.

If your loved one had a will, an attorney can assist you with the process of filing it in the Superior Court of the county in which your loved one lived prior to their passing, which must be done within 30 days of their death. An estate planning attorney can also assist you with the probate process. If your loved one died without a will, the attorney can advise you of your rights and the rights of other potential beneficiaries pursuant to Washington’s intestacy laws. Finally, a lawyer will be able to advise you as to how your loved one’s death impacts your estate plan and assist you in making any necessary updates.

A capable estate planning attorney can also help you to determine whether you need to contact the Social Security Administration to discuss your right to benefits or file a life insurance claim. They can also evaluate whether you may be owed benefits from your deceased spouse’s pension company or the Veterans Administration.

Schedule a Consultation with a Trusted Estate Planning Attorney

The loss of a loved one can be overwhelming, but there are measures you can take to make the process of healing and moving forward less stressful. If you lost your spouse or loved one, it is in your best interest to schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning attorney to discuss your options. Call Gregorek & Associates at 425-284-3450 or fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.

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