As a famous aviator and film producer, Howard Hughes left a $2.5 billion estate behind. Despite often indicating his desire to leave a large portion of his estate to medical research, he never put this request in writing.
While very few Americans have a billion dollar estate, the importance of writing out their wishes is still prevalent. Just as the Hughes estate suffered from very high estate taxes, if you fail to properly plan your estate then your family could be left paying the bill.
If you put your wishes in writing, there can be no disputing what you want after your death. Donations to charity, money to certain family members and friends, even the care of your pet can be written out.
Do not leave behind a mess for your family to figure out. Write out your wishes in a properly drafted will or trust to prevent unnecessary fees and taxes and to ensure that your estate is distributed the way you want.