I read Wall St. Journal regularly even though I am hardly a titan of industry. There were two articles in WSJ recently about living trusts that drove me crazy.
On 12/31/06 there was an article titled "Living Trusts: Sometimes Needed Often Not." This was a typical "anti-trust" story that said watch out for finacial planners that pitch trusts along with annuities and other high fee products. The story goes on to say "In Texas, it’s possible to avoid probate entirely by having certain language in your will." This is 100% incorrect, of course. I went back and looked at the story online and there is a correction at the bottom of the story saying you can’t avoid probate with a will in Texas (or anywhere else!)
Today, 1/14/07, there was another WSJ story called "Smart Retirment Shopping: High Pressure TacticsTarget Seniors Savings: Avoiding the Hard Sell." In this article, which is a little better that the article mentioned above, the writer quotes an attorney who says "a competently written will can help you avoid probate too." This is 100% wrong.
Several clients asked about me whether they really needed a living trust after reading the first story. The general public has a hard time sorting out the difference between wills and trusts as it is, without slapdash articles like these.
The Facts: Wills guarantee probate. Probate is expensive. Attorneys and executors often overcharge for simple actions in probate. If the cost of a living trust is reasonable (say less than $1000.00) it makes sense to use a living trust rather than a will.