Wills (and trusts) are important because they describe how you want your assets distributed when you die. There are many reasons why you should have a will, including to: clearly identify ownership of your property (and how much), assign a legal guardian for your children, expedite the legal process of assigning your assets, save on estate tax (depending on how you structure your will), and make charitable donations or other gifts.

Efficient transfer of wealth doesn’t always require a trust and depending on circumstances, alternative solutions like using a will along with beneficiary designations, payable on death (POD) accounts, and co-ownership options are generally sufficient. All of these options will transfer assets immediately upon death without additional expense or steps. In certain instances, you may also be able to meet certain estate planning needs by making direct transfers (or gifts) to desired beneficiaries during your lifetime.

When you die, an executor, who you name, oversees the distribution of your estate to any heirs named. The actual distribution of your assets, however, is controlled by the probate court (and, in certain instances, this can be time consuming and costly).