Even though a will serves as the cornerstone of an estate plan, many Americans do not have this legal document in place. When a person dies without creating a will, the court decides important issues such as inheritance and child custody.

Provide for your family when you are no longer physically able to do so by considering these five aspects of a legal will.

Property and assets

Before meeting with an attorney, create a complete list of your financial assets. This inventory should include investments, retirement funds, credit cards, bank accounts, real estate and other valuable items like jewelry and art. It should also cover intellectual property, such as a blog or website domain that generates income.

Personal items

Think about leaving items of sentimental value to loved ones in your will. These bequests, such as family photographs, heirlooms and keepsakes, do not necessarily have financial value, but you should still list them in your will depending on your wishes.

Debts

Assets in your estate will first cover outstanding debts. List the amounts you owe for your mortgage and auto loan as well as any credit card debt. If you do not have enough money to cover these debts upon your death, your will should indicate which assets the estate should sell to repay the debt.

Executor

You must appoint an executor to oversee the administration of your will. This individual should be an organized, trustworthy friend or family member who is willing to take on the responsibility of this role. Your attorney can also serve as executor.

Heirs

How do you want to divide your property when you die? Most married people leave their separately held assets to their spouse and children, if any. If your children are minors, you can indicate an age at which they receive an inheritance. You can also leave assets to other family members and loved ones and/or charitable organizations.

Think about these decisions when you prepare to create a draft of your will. An attorney can ensure your estate is properly protected with the necessary legal documents.