Should probate be avoided?

Probate in Texas does not have to be long and expensive, yet fear of its costs drives many to plan ways to avoid it. Some people execute trusts into which they transfer everything they own so that, when they die, there will be no need to probate their estate. These trusts are called “living” or inter vivos trusts because they are established while the person is still alive.

Trusts can be handy tools. Their possible uses are limited only by the imagination and go far beyond the scope of this paper. In my opinion, however, the desire to avoid probate is a lame reason to go to the trouble and expense of a living trust. Often, I find the fees for drafting and funding the trust to exceed the total costs of drafting and probating a good will.

In summary, before you buy into some scare tactic about the cost of probate, get a second opinion from a Texas lawyer. Several states’ attorneys general, bar associations and even the AARP have issued alerts concerning the unscrupulous sale of living trusts using misleading information to scare the public. Maybe a trust is right for you, maybe it isn’t. Estate planning is just not a “one size fits all” business.