Deciding on what will happen to your estate after you pass can be difficult, but it’s important to remember that you’re probably the most qualified to make the decisions. Your family may have some idea of what’s at stake, but it’s not likely the know the whole picture.

Only 44% of Americans have an estate plan in place. While drafting a plan is a great first step, not everyone helps their family by creating a comprehensive guide to their assets. Making your wishes known is an essential part of the process, but it won’t do much if your family doesn’t know what you have.

By the book

Your family will be on hard times when you’re no longer around. The last thing you want them to do is try to wade through ledgers, filings and receipts. You likely know better than anyone what you have in your possession, so it falls on your shoulders to make sure your plan covers everything in your care.

Charting a course

Mapping out exactly what is included in the will can go a long way toward helping your family:

  • Real estate: Land ownership can be complex. It’s important to take stock of what you own and what you’re leasing, so it will be easier to divide shares or sell off parcels when the time comes.
  • Investments: Your portfolios may not be in one tidy package, and their worth isn’t always straightforward. Stocks and bonds, retirement payouts and insurance plans may all be worth a lot, but they aren’t likely to go looking for your beneficiaries.
  • Business ventures: Companies can be a maze of assets. It’s crucial that you take stock of everything you own in a business. These numbers can change greatly depending on shares, partnerships and licensing.

Once these major players are all outlined, the matter of handling your estate will likely become easier. Dividing assets among family, paying outstanding debts and taking care of taxes won’t be burdened by unknowns cropping up along the way.

Make sure you know what makes up your estate and what all those pieces are worth.  It can go a long way toward paving the way for a smoother process, and ensure that the steps are easier to handle for your family.