After retiring, planning your estate may be one of your top priorities. Failing to execute a will could leave a probate court in charge of what happens to your belongings.

According to Caring.com, 40 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan. Creating your will as soon as possible helps you plan for unexpected events and decide the distribution of your assets. Probate courts also recover any past debt by taking it from the estate at the time of distribution.

How to begin planning your estate

Before you plan your estate, consider what property you want to include, who will be a beneficiary and the executor. To help you make those decisions, here are three estate planning tips:

  • Calculate your net worth: Find out what your net worth is by calculating the value of your assets, which includes jewelry, cars, homes, and any investments. Be sure to include insurance policies, retirement assets or any other non-tangible assets in your calculation. Then figure out the number of liabilities you have and subtract it from the total of your assets. Determining your net worth will help you decide what assets to give each beneficiary.
  • Designate beneficiaries: Choose who you would like to be named in your will and what you want them to inherit.
  • Choose an executor: Decide who will administer the estate. You can appoint anyone as the executor of your estate.

Additionally, you may want to think about creating a revocable living trust if you have a somewhat large estate. This will keep the details of your estate private and allow you to avoid probate court.

Because of the complexity of probate laws, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can draft your will for you and help you avoid making any mistakes throughout the process. Speaking with your attorney can also help you learn if a trust is another option for you.