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What are 2 most important documents in estate administration?

Let's be honest: Every situation is different and when it comes to estates, there aren't always one-size-fits-all answers. Applying generalities to your estate planning or administration can cause problems and result in increased stress and financial burden for you or your heirs, which is why it's important to work with a professional estate lawyer to address your individual needs. One thing can be generalized across estate situations, though: If you're going to administer an estate, you need a death certificate.

The death certificate is usually provided by the funeral home or other burial provider. They can provide you with as many copies of the certificate as you need -- and you will want more than one. Some financial and government institutions might want a certified copy before they will release benefits or assets, and you'll need a certificate to wrap up any online or offline accounts.

Not all death certificates state the cause of death, though, and that's often required for life insurance purposes. Make sure you know what requirements various organizations have so you can get the right information on any certificate.

While a will isn't required for every estate as a death certificate is, it is an essential component of strong estate planning. If you are the executor of an estate, then you need to seek out the will as soon as possible. The will provides some guidance on how you will divide assets and it might also have valuable information about heirs or where assets are located. If you are planning your estate, plan to leave a will if you want to help ensure your wishes about assets are followed.

Source: Bankrate, "7 tips for the executor of an estate," Judy Martel, accessed Nov. 11, 2016

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