No one wants to plan for their passing, but if you don't, loved ones are left to sort out your affairs. Do you want family members feuding over your assets? Or the court deciding who's going to take care of your minor children? Or the court deciding who gets what property?
The first thing you need to do is make a detailed list of your assets and liabilities. Take care of having an up-to-date Will prepared and properly executed. Under your Will, you decide who will get what assets and who will administer your estate. You should also have Advance Medical Directives prepared and properly executed. These two documents include a living will, which allows you to determine when a hospital or doctor can or cannot put you on life support when for example you have an illness or injury for which you will not recover, and a medical power of attorney, which allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions in accordance with your wishes. You may also want to have a financial power of attorney prepared in case you should suffer an injury or illness that prevents you from conducting your own financial affairs. There are other estate planning documents that can be used so that you and your family are properly prepared for your death. Failing to have estate documents completed can cause serious conflict between your heirs and may be a windfall for tax collectors and/or the probate court.
In planning and preparing for your passing keep in mind that insurance benefits, retirement plan funds, and investment accounts with named beneficiaries pass outside of probate. The funds are paid directly to the named beneficiary. Jointly held assets, like a home in the names of you and your spouse or your child also pass outside of probate.