When you plan for the unexpected (which is a BIG part of estate planning), you’re making decisions that protect you and your family. And if you don’t plan, you could be leaving your family with a mess.

In fact, I tell my clients that, in most situations, who gets your stuff when you die isn’t the most important part of estate planning. The most important part of estate planning is making sure that you have documents that will protect your family, and ensure that a guardian is not needed for you if you become incapacitated.

Here are a few things that can happen when you don’t plan properly:

  1. If you have a medical emergency and/or become temporarily or permanently incapacitated, and can’t make decisions for yourself, no one else may be able to do so without court involvement. And your family might not even be able to get complete information about your condition.
  2. If you have minor children and haven’t named temporary and permanent guardians for them, and you become temporarily or permanently disabled or die, someone you would never want to be their guardian could be appointed by a judge who doesn’t know you, your kids or your specific wishes for their care.
  3. If you’re incapacitated and don’t have a durable power of attorney, no one can handle your financial affairs and, you guessed it, a court will have to get involved. That means time and great expense. Also, a guardian can be appointed who you wouldn’t want to be appointed.
  4. If you have specific end of life wishes and don’t document them, your family may be put in the difficult and painful position to discontinue treatment without knowing what you want.

These are just some of things that can happen if you don’t plan.

But if you do plan, you can avoid all of this. In fact, avoiding these issues is the most important part of an estate plan – much more important than deciding who gets your stuff when you’re gone.

Planning gives you peace of mind knowing that your family has the power and specific instructions to take care of you if you’re unable to take care of yourself. And that they will be protected if you are no longer around to care for them.