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Estate planning may be a challenging topic for many families, but especially those with parents who may be facing the loss of their competence. The children of these individuals may fear for what will happen upon their loved one's death and dread the estate administration process if last wishes are not secured.

Maryland families in this type of situation may find bringing up the subject of wills or advanced directives uncomfortable, but open communication and honesty may be a major component to securing loved one's interests.

Whether the individual already has documents drawn, or is considering it, it is important that the location of these documents is recorded in a safe place. There are several documents that are considered important to estate administration. First is the will, which is a simple document that may record assets and property and may outline how they are to be distributed upon death. The second is a living trust, allowed to be used during one's life and upon death, in which the probate process is avoided and assets are distributed to heirs.

One of the most important documents that individuals may want to consider is a durable power of attorney, a legal document used to allocate an individual as one's attorney-in-fact to make financial and legal decisions in the event of incapacitation. Similarly, a medical directive, also known as an advanced directive, gives one the opportunity to advise the medical community of last wishes should they be unable to make decisions. Within the medical directive, both the estate planner and their family should understand where one stands about dying and death in a medical situation.

Estate administration may be aided by ensuring that these documents are in place and are openly communicated with loved ones. Estate planning may be challenging, but it does not have to be dramatic for Maryland families. For families of an individual who are losing their memory from Alzheimer's, dementia, or other reasons, having a solid plan in place may benefit all parties involved and ensure protection of rights, property, and relationships.

Source: CBS Boston, "Estate Planning Is Essential While Still Competent," Dee Lee, June 15, 2012

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