The deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and the other people who were with him on the helicopter when it crashed shocked people in New York and around the world. Whenever there is a tragic loss of life, people should think about planning their estates.

When people fail to have a will or trust, the courts will determine how to distribute their assets that are not covered by beneficiary designations. The way in which the court might do so may not be what the decedents wanted. Failing to write an estate plan might also leave the family members to contend with the lengthy and expensive probate process.

When parents unexpectedly die without wills, the courts might appoint guardians of the courts’ choosing. Parents can designate guardians to care for their children if they die. Without wills, the courts might choose guardians with whom the parents might not have been comfortable. People who die without immediate family members and without wills might have their assets distributed to distant relatives with whom they had no relationships. If their estates are sizable, the decedents’ loved ones may also have to pay substantial taxes.

Everyone older than 18 should consider estate planning. While people might think that their deaths are a long time away, unexpected accidents and illnesses can cause people to pass away at any time. Having wills, trusts, advance medical directives, financial and health care powers of attorney, trusts, and other documents in place might help to ensure that people’s wishes are followed if something unexpected occurs. People might benefit from talking to experienced estate planning attorneys about the types of documents that they might want to consider. The attorneys can review their clients’ situations and the needs of their family members when determining what the plan should contain.