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When Maryland residents decide that it is time to begin the estate planning process, they may find that there are several different processes to consider. Among those processes is the estate administration process, which can be complicated when the wishes and instructions of the individual planning are not adequately understood. In order to ensure that the process is smooth and that those involved have a clear idea of what needs to happen during estate administration, there are several tasks that have been outlined as the fundamental estate planning to-dos that go beyond just drafting a will.

The first task is to ensure that beneficiaries are up to date on all accounts and documents. Individual designation forms take precedence to other estate planning tools after death, so their validity and updated status is important. Individuals may also find it necessary to update their beneficiaries and estate planning documents after major life events such as marriage or divorce.

For parents with young children, it is recommended that legal guardians be appointed. This step of estate planning can be completed as soon as a couple becomes parents, and should be very carefully thought out. More than one guardian can be named, depending upon the situation and the needs to the child.

Naming powers of attorney is another important part of estate planning. A power of attorney is important for more than just death wishes. Power of attorney is also useful in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated in any way. Different from a power of attorney but equally as important, an executor will ensure that wishes are met when it's time to execute the estate plan. Individuals planning their estate should communicate with this person and ensure that they are right for the task.

No amount of documentation can take away the pain of losing a loved one. The good news, however, is that when Maryland residents have an established estate plan in place, the estate administration process can be much smoother. This can allow families to focus on moving forward rather than becoming entangled in unnecessary battles.

Source: Morningstar, "5 Estate-Planning Tasks That You Shouldn't Put Off," Christine Benz, Aug. 20, 2012

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