My family knows what I want. Do I need a formal estate plan?

Without a valid estate plan in place, those holding your property, such as your bank or mortgage company, may not have authority to recognize your wishes.  Then your survivors will have to seek court supervision to administer your personal affairs.  Even a “small estate” proceeding will take many months and, if you are facing a full-blown probate, it will be at least one to two years, and require several thousand dollars in fees and costs, before the person administering the estate will be able to distribute your property, even for the simplest estate.