First off, what is an estate?
Simply stated, an estate is everything you own. When you start adding it up, you actually may own more than you think. Your estate includes your house and other real estate, automobile(s), investments, insurance policies, retirement benefits from your employer, personal belongings, and more.
So, why do you need estate planning?
Actually, you already have an estate plan. The only question is if it is an estate plan that you want—a plan that is best for you and your family. Estate planning is essential to ensuring that your loved ones are provided for and your health and property wishes are honored upon your passing. People often dismiss estate planning in place of more immediate concerns.
However, a comprehensive estate plan can resolve and avoid a number of legal questions that arise after death: including questions of financial affairs, real and personal property, transfer of ownership, funeral arrangements, taxes, etc.
Upon death, a person's assets are required by law to be distributed. A lack of estate planning could allow for a court to determine allocation, which may or may not align with your personal wishes.
However, estate planning is not just about what happens after you die. A good estate plan will also protect you at incapacity. It will let you—not the courts—keep control of your assets and control of decisions about your medical care when you can no longer handle your own affairs.