New York residents who downplay the importance of crafting estate planning documents will often have a litany of excuses as to why they do not believe it to be a fundamental aspect of life. Some of them, at first glance, might even make sense. However, everyone needs to consider the value of an estate plan. This is true whether they are wealthy, have limited assets and income, and anywhere in between. This reality is surprisingly hammered home by the revelation that prominent people who had significant wealth died without having crafted a will or any other estate planning device. Such is the case with the singer Aretha Franklin.

Understanding why this is a mistake is the first step. Next is knowing what is necessary in a comprehensive estate plan. Statistically, Ms. Franklin’s decision not to have a will is more common than most realize. Close to 60 percent of adults in the U.S. do not have a will. Other celebrities have died without a will. An estate plan is beneficial as it details what the person wants and can prevent fighting among family members after the person’s death. Not having a will is also referred to as dying intestate. This can cause problems not just with the assets and property, but if there are children who need to be cared for, the decision is removed from the person’s control and goes to the courts.

With a will, there will be an executor. The executor is responsible for dealing with the person’s accounts, making certain assets go where they were intended, paying debts, and selling property. There are other responsibilities for an executor. Some people want to have a health proxy and other preparations if the person is incapacitated. For example, some do not want to be kept alive through artificial means or do not want to have certain procedures done to keep them alive. The living will can account for that. A power of attorney will give another person the authority to oversee the person’s financial and medical affairs.

As the case of Ms. Franklin shows, avoiding estate planning can be a problem. Many people will think about their estate plan needs, their family and how their assets will be allocated after death but never take the necessary steps to do something about it. A law firm that has experience with estate planning strategies can walk a person through the entire process and explain the importance of these critical documents. Calling for a consultation is the first step.