Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: Nolo's 8 Ways To Avoid Probate

Nolo's 2010 edition of its book 8 Ways To Avoid Probate is an excellent illustration of why a book is a not a good substitute for legal advice. At first glance it appears to be very user friendly with interesting chapters. I especially liked the fact it included a chapter on small estates avoiding probate.

However, in more than one chapter the book mentions leaving funds to minor children via UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act). There was no discussion of testamentary trusts. The options were to leave it a child with the child's parent as custodian (under UTMA) or a living trust. Overlooking testamentary trusts is a huge gap in legal options. I prefer testamentary trusts because they allow a parent to establish a trust fund, created only when both parents are gone, for children until the youngest reaches an age they set. It is commonly higher than age 21 associated with UTMAs.

Another short coming of the book is it does not guide the reader through a cost benefit analysis of whether the costs of a trust (establishment and on-going costs) would exceed the costs of probate. Here in Wisconsin the probate fee is 0.2 percent of the net probate assets. That means you multiply assets minus liabilities by 0.002 and get the fee owed to the court. Compare that to a living trust, and it may be less.

Nolo has created some very useful books, this one however is not in my top 10.

No comments: