Estate planning is important because what you do now will help spare your loved ones from additional responsibilities in the future, especially when they should not be expected to make difficult decisions. While no one is required to draft an estate plan, a good estate plan will help you navigate complicated state and federal laws and provide for your heirs as you choose, not as the government decides. An estate plan typically incorporates the basic principles of asset protection and control.

A will is a guiding document often included in an estate plan. A will is one of the best ways to ensure your estate is settled and distributed according to your wishes. A properly drafted will designates specifically who will receive your assets. It may even prevent unanticipated disagreements after your death. A will created ten years ago, however, may no longer hold the protections it did at the time it was drafted. It is important to regularly update your will to verify its applicability with current law.

For those who choose to draft a will, there are many options available. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney, especially one that specializes in estate planning, to make sure your will is current and takes full advantage of the various tax codes and laws. Basic pre-printed and ready-to-fill-in wills are available, but quite often these documents will not provide you with the needed level of customization. Your will is an opportunity for you to decide upon the disposition of your assets, and a properly drafted will allows more flexibility.

After creating a will and keeping it current with varying laws, there is still one more common reason to update your will — changes in your life. Marriages, children, divorces, major increases or decreases in your net worth are all reasons to revisit and possibly revise your existing will. Drafting and maintaining a will is time well spent both for you and your heirs.