Many blue-collar workers fully share their finances with their spouses and have their spouse or children named as beneficiaries for their life insurance policy, which might even be a benefit provided or subsidized by their employer.

Given that the life insurance policy will pay directly to family members and that there aren’t complex assets in their name, factory workers and other people who work blue-collar jobs might not think that they have to engage in the same kind of estate planning as people with investment accounts or more unusual assets.

In reality, estate planning is important for everyone with a family or significant assets, regardless of the nature of their work. If you are close to retirement age and haven’t yet created an estate plan, now is likely the time to do so.

An estate plan protects you, not just your assets

A thorough estate plan is much more than just a last will designating your desired recipients for the assets you leave behind or a guardian for your minor children. Your estate plan can include medical wishes and other documents that protect you and your family’s financial stability if you wind up injured on the job or otherwise incapacitated.

By putting your medical preferences in writing and naming someone who can handle financial, medical or legal affairs on your behalf, you help ensure that do you will receive the care you want when you aren’t able to speak for yourself.

Your estate plan protects your loved ones and your legacy

You may simply want to split your assets among the people you love the most, but if you don’t leave a last will, some of the people you care about may not benefit from your estate. If you die without a last will, your estate will have to go through probate court. The courts have to follow specific rules about how to allocate your assets if you die without a will, which might mean that your siblings or close friends won’t get what you want them to.

Planning for a structured passage of your assets not only reduces the likelihood of your estate going through probate, but it can also eliminate tax liability for your family members and even help you qualify for Medicaid and other government assistance as you age. A good estate plan may include long-term care planning and Medicaid planning as well.

Although it is usually best to have an estate plan in place early in your career, if you are about to retire, now is the time to start thinking about the legacy you want to leave behind and the benefits but you may need as you grow older.