You want to take care of your family when you’re gone, but your estate might not be much help if you don’t outline your wishes. Directing your assets could be the most critical step in making sure you continue looking after your loved ones.

If you’re lacking a will, then you’re not alone. Almost 70% of people in America don’t have a will in place. This likely means that your estate will be left in the hands of the courts. Once that happens, it’s probably the laws, not your wishes, that will reign supreme. If you want your estate handled in a specific manner, then you’ll probably need to make your intentions known in a legal will.

Penning your wishes

A will can cover a broad range of topics to make sure your estate behaves according to your desires:

  • Distribution: Without a will, it’s likely up to the state to decide how to distribute your assets. Any verbal wishes could have a hard time finding the light of day in a courtroom.
  • Guardianship: If anyone in your life relies on you for care, it might still fall on your shoulders to look after them when you’re not around. A will can appoint a guardian, as well as set up trusts, to make sure they’re cared for in the years to come.
  • Executor: Someone will probably need to oversee carrying out your wishes as you intend. You can name that person to be responsible for notifying beneficiaries of your passing, distributing assets and handling any other affairs of your estate.
  • Legal challenges: If you leave without a will, it can quickly turn into familial disagreements. More than one-third of people reported personally experiencing or knowing someone who experienced family conflict from a nonexistent or ambiguous will.
  • Donations: Any money that you want to gift outside of the family will need to be put into writing. Just because you have an organization that everyone knows you love, doesn’t mean they’re entitled to anything unless you say so. Donations with lump sums or through trusts will need to be set up ahead of time.

Writing a will can make things a lot easier for everyone involved. You’ll likely eliminate any guesswork in the process, and maybe leave the courts out of the process altogether. Set your wishes down on paper, and make sure your family can rely on you long after you’re gone.