It is difficult to think about the distant future, so like many Americans, you may have put off creating a will. A recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave found that of people over the age of 55, only half have added a will to their estate plans. 

When you create a will, you legally protect your children, spouse and assets. This document also lays the foundation for how your executor will handle your estate after you die. 

Reasons to create a will

If you die without a will, your estate could undergo a lengthy probate process. Without this document, you leave decisions about how to divide your estate up to the court without any of your input. 

Since your will also lets you name a legal guardian for any of your minor children, the court will choose who will take care of your children if you die without a will. Although the court will generally choose from your family members first, the appointed person may not be who you want. 

When to update your will

Even after you make your will, you should still review it and make changes to it with regularity. Certain life circumstances also warrant a change to your will. For example, you should update your will after you get married, get divorced or have a new child. You should also change your will if you gain or lose property, if one of your beneficiaries dies or if you want to change your executor.