Do I need an estate plan?

In short - yes. Some people think an estate plan means an intricate series of intricate trusts and closely held corporations used for tax avoidance. While that can be part of an estate plan, that's not what most people need - if you and your spouse's total assets are worth less than $10.9 (2016) million, you won't need anything like that to avoid paying estate taxes. 

For most people, an estate plan consists of 3 documents - a will, a financial power of attorney, and an advance directive. These documents let you make decisions so the court won't have to in the future, and allow you to relieve family of a lot of unnecessary filings. 

Your will not only allows you to choose who gets what part of your property - it also allows you to select who will care for your children after you die, rather than leaving that to be fought out in the courts. It allows you to relieve your executor of filing routine documents with the court, and of posting a bond to serve as your executor. It chooses who will be your executor, rather than having a potential fight. It also lets your family know that what they're doing is what you wanted, which helps people find peace of mind and closure after the loss of a loved one. 

Your financial power of attorney is valid while you're alive, but is used when you're not able to manage your finances on your own for any reason. This is particularly helpful if you suddenly find yourself in the hospital, and someone else needs to pay your bills for you in the meantime. 

Your advance directive lets you make healthcare decisions for yourself now, choosing which types of treatment you would and wouldn't want to receive. It also lets you choose who will act as your healthcare agent if you're unable to make decisions. 

If these decisions aren't made in advance, your family could have to go to court to have a guardian or conservator appointed for you. In that case, it's more expensive, time consuming, and emotionally disruptive than having your own estate plan prepared while you're able to do so. Not only do you then know that your wishes will be honored, but your family and friends will know that they're honoring your wishes, rather than trying to decide what you would have wanted, when they should be grieving.