It seems like retailers start decorating for the holidays earlier and earlier each year. Seeing those decorations puts us in the mindset of family time and gift giving. Yet the one gift that can give our family true peace of mind in the event of a crisis – an estate plan – is something that most Americans don’t have.

According to a 2019 survey from Caring.com, approximately 57% of adults in this country do not have a will or revocable living trust in place. The numbers are even lower for younger adults – only 20% of 18-34-year-olds have any kind of plan. Yet, people seem to know that they SHOULD have a plan. 74% of survey participants say that having a will or trust is important, but yet 50% said that the reason they don’t have one is because they simply haven’t gotten around to it.

Any estate planner or elder law attorney will say that having a will or trust in place is important to make sure that your assets go to the right people upon your death. Yet, arguably even more important is the planning that determines who will make decisions for you when and if you cannot do so yourself. Sure, no one wants to think about long-term mental deterioration brought on by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. But what if you (and/or your spouse) were in a car accident? Who will take care of your children until you’ve recovered enough to do so? Who will make your healthcare decisions? Who will pay the mortgage or for your children’s needs while you are incapacitated?

If you do not have a plan in place, the state of Texas will decide the answer to each of the questions above. There are two major downsides to leaving these choices to the state: 1) the statutory solution may not be your preferred result and 2) relying on the state to make a decision increases both time (before the decision may be made) and cost (because of the court process) during a crisis situation.

Consider using time over the holidays to have some important decisions with your family. Then make the choice to protect the people you love with a plan.

Read more about the results of the survey here: https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/.