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Making an estate plan ready for the probate process

Many District of Columbia residents have an estate plan. However, some may fail to handle a few additional details that could make the probate process much smoother when the time comes. Periodic routine maintenance of an estate plan can prevent family members from encountering unnecessary roadblocks or complications.

If an individual has a financial adviser or accountant, it is important that his or her spouse or other trusted family member meet that person. It may be helpful to have a firsthand look at the entire financial situation and goals, as explained by the adviser. This could also establish a necessary level of comfort for the two to work together if that becomes necessary later.

Leaving all of a person's accounts to his or her spouse or other family members may be noble, but without knowledge of those accounts and the ability to access them once the person is gone, it may be unnecessarily complicated. Creating and maintaining a list of all accounts and the information needed to access them can make it easier for a family member to access the information later. Names and contact information of any professionals -- such as the financial adviser and other professionals-- may also be added to that list. Reviewing that list and an individual's estate planning documents from time to time can be a valuable exercise to keep everything up to date.

Some estate plans are prepared to avoid probate, but the need for the underlying information is the same. Even if a District of Columbia resident's estate plan is designed to avoid the probate process, these suggested steps will make things easier for a spouse and other family members when an individual dies. Making the probate process easier in preparation for an already difficult time is a gift to loved ones.

Source: dailyfinance.com, "3 Important Estate Planning Questions", Scott Holsopple, May 2, 2014

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