With a new year comes a fresh start, and one good thing to do is to consider your estate planning needs. Estate planning is necessary, since it dictates what happens to your assets if you pass away. If you don’t have an estate plan, your estate will fall under state laws and could end up being divided between individuals whom you did not want to have receive your assets.

It’s a sad fact that around 50 percent of American adults don’t have wills prepared, and that means that if they pass away, their families will be left wondering who should receive their assets. A judge has to look at the estate and determine the beneficiaries at that stage, which could end up hurting people in your family, especially if you have children from previous marriages, a current spouse or other relatives relying on your estate’s assets.

1. Dying without a will could leave a partner with nothing

When you die without a will, a judge decides who becomes the beneficiary or beneficiaries. If there are small children who now need new guardians, the judge may have to appoint someone as a guardian as well. If you are not married but have a partner, your estate will go to your biological family first, not your girlfriend or boyfriend.

2. Dying without a will means you can’t appoint an executor

If you die without a will, you can’t appoint an executor. That means that a judge has to decide who should carry out your wishes. In many cases, the judge appoints a friend or family member to take over the estate, but there’s no guarantee that says who it will be.

3. Dying without a will leaves your loved ones with taxes and debts

If you die without a will, your loved ones may not know what taxes or debts you owe. This makes more work for them, as they have to pay taxes on estates valued at over $5.45 million. Your heirs will also have to file your income tax return, and without that information, may have a hard time doing so.

If you’re ready to create a will, do so soon. You can update it as you age, and it guarantees there’s some direction when you die.