Since I went solo over 20 years ago and opened my own practice, I’ve met with hundreds of families from Bellaire and southwest Houston. They have taught me more about estate planning and probate than law school ever did, if only by forcing me to answer their questions. When is a trust worth it? Can I sell the house without probate? How much can I distribute to my niece?

My Clients

These people are heroes. They are successful, but they love their family more than their money. They grind away at jobs they’d quit if they could, but others are counting on them.

They run their households and raise their children, then, when age or infirmity strikes, they step up to help a spouse or parents, grandparents, or, unfortunately, sometimes even children. Their burdens are daunting and often unfair, yet they quietly persevere.

They are smart and resourceful. Before they come to me they’ve already sized up their situation, educated themselves, and developed unique insights and questions. They keep me on my toes.

Their Dilemma

They are also confused by conflicting advice, much of it accurate but inapplicable to their assets or family. They know that mistakes are expensive, and they want to understand their options. They struggle to reconcile what they’ve learned and what others do with the same information, and they look to me for guidance.

Common Answers

It took a while, but I eventually caught on that my clients are all neighbors, with similar resources, problems, and solutions. If one family asks a question, the answers likely help 100 others I never met. And their questions are very good. They may not all sound in the Estates Code or gift and estate tax planning, but they are relevant and deserve to be addressed before estate planning or probate begins.

Your neighbors’ questions and my answers evolved into brief articles, run as advertorials in The BUZZ Magazines. After 10 years, some articles have aged better than others, but each represents a common concern and the best answer I could give in 400 words, calibrated to the moderately wealthy.

Crowdsourcing Probate

I have started updating and posting the best articles. If interested, subscribe below. You’ll find the first 20 posted already at Once subscribed, you can also expect an enhanced version of the latest BUZZ advertorial each month, with hyperlinks and maybe additional material not possible in the print edition.

Blog comments are welcome, even (especially) if you disagree with me. I hope to start a robust conversation that includes other lawyers and financial professionals, including CPAs, financial advisers, and insurance agents, as well as those who’ve found our advice more or less helpful than expected.

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