Perhaps not surprisingly, more than three out of every four Americans say having a will is important, but a 2019 Caring.com study shows only 40% of those taking part in the survey have an estate plan in place.

People over 65 are the largest group – at 66% – with a will or trust, while that number drops precipitously to 39% for 45- to 54-year-olds. But even those who have an estate plan often forget to include some essential components.

Creating a comprehensive estate plan

Most people understand that a will directs how their children will be protected, and how they want their assets, such as money and property, distributed. But there are other things to consider that might surprise you, including:

  • Naming a digital executor: Having someone to manage your afterlife social media presence is important for many people, whether it’s shutting down Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, or managing your online business. Make sure you include all passwords and user names.
  • Caring for beloved pets: Designate a guardian in case your dog, cat or other cherished pet outlives you and remember that taking care of them costs money. Create a fund to pay for their future care and other expenses, which experts estimate at $500 to $1,000 a year or more if they have special needs.
  • Donations to charities: After making sure your family members are taken care of, many people want part of their estate to benefit religious, educational or other nonprofit organizations that have made a difference in their lives. You can also create tax breaks for loved ones by orchestrating donations through their inheritance.

Take action to ensure your legacy

When a person dies without creating a will or trust, their family or business can struggle through the probate process, and a judge will ultimately decide how their assets are distributed. Taking the time to put a plan in place with the help of an estate planning attorney allows you to have the final say.