One of the most important things you can do to protect your family members is to have an estate plan in place when you pass away. The cornerstone of this is the will. When you write yours, you don’t have to do anything extravagant. It can be fairly simple as long as it has the legally required elements and doesn’t contain anything that may have it tossed out.

The will that you write outlines who is going to get which assets when you pass away. You can set this up be specifying each asset individually or you may opt to set things up by percentages so that each individual or entity, such as a favorite charity, will get a specific portion of your estate.

There are some assets that can’t be included in a will. These include those that have a beneficiary already named. Sometimes, this is called a payable-on-death designation. This is often used on financial accounts, such as bank accounts and life insurance policies. Even some pensions might have this.

You can’t include anything in the will if it is property that you hold with another person. The surviving individual would get full control of that property.

Another component to think about is the appointment of a personal representative, or executor. This person works to ensure that your wishes are complied with when you are gone. They handle everything related to the estate, including paying bills and filing tax returns.

There might be other components of your will that you need to think about. These depend on your circumstances. For example, a parent with minor children needs to name a guardian. It is best to outline everything you think you will need in your estate plan, so you can find out what needs to be put into the will.