Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Senator Setzler can run, but he can't hide

You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Last year, I sent an e-mail to the senator asking what he had done to simplify probate requirements, and I encouraged him to support Kenny Bingham's bill. After two weeks without a reply, I published a blog post, sent the senator a link to it, published the link on Twitter and Facebook, and made two appearances in front of the senator's law firm directing people to this blog. Almost immediately thereafter, I received the reply from Senator Setzler stating that he was "inclined to support Representative Bingham's bill."

Nice try at making it appear that you would like to help your constituents, Senator, but it was late in the 2016 legislative session, odds were overwhelmingly strong that Bingham's bill would never make it out of committee, and "Ethics" Chairman Bingham had announced his intention to retire. Bingham's bill was indeed too little too late, and of course Senator Setzler ignored those pesky questions I asked him in my blog post.

By the time Senator Setzler got around to replying to my e-mail, the legislative gang's attitude toward victims of South Carolina's probate/trust racket had been underscored by the repulsive charade put on by "Ethics" Chairman Bingham and attorney Emma Dean of the House Judiciary Committee. Only the profoundest of clods would pull such a stunt.

The main interest in Bingham's bill seemed to be in making sure the bill was kept as quiet as possible.

This year, I decided to see just how sincere probate-attorney Setzler actually is about simplifying the probate code, and on 1/30/17 - over three weeks ago - I sent him an e-mail suggesting that he introduce a bill similar to Kenny Bingham's for the current legislative session. And wouldn't ya know it, just like last year, I have yet to find any replies from the senator.

Point is, nobody should have to prompt Senator Setzler to initiate efforts to clean up South Carolina's probate/trust racket. The senator - a career politician for 40 years - probably had a hand in initiating those attorney-serving complexities to the probate code, but regardless of his role at the time, Senator Setzler has had about 30 years to take action on behalf of the bereaved. Of course, the senator never saw fit to inform his constituents that the probate code had been turned into a money-making scheme for attorneys, and it was a hoot the way the attorney I spoke with in Senator Setzler's law firm intimated that the 1986 revision to the probate code was done on behalf of the taxpaying public. Silence is indeed golden for the probate/trust racket.

Attorney-legislators must be dancing in the aisles now that the governorship has gone to one of their own. The state's new governor - Henry McMaster - is another career politician and former Attorney General who's already been embroiled in a scandal and who somehow forgot to mention the state's probate/trust racket in the much ballyhooed video he made upon taking office.

I understand this entire situation quite well, Senator Setzler. There you are a well-entrenched, career politician, and here I am, just a lowly constituent.


What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.

2/23/2017 update: Still no reply from Senator Setzler, and today I stood in front of the SC State House - where the senator is probably holed up - with a sign directing folks to this blog. Many thanks to all who signaled support, and it was a hoot watching a WIS-10 "news" crew nonchalantly drive by, apparently knowing better than to investigate and submit a story.

2/21/2017 update: My pleasure to e-mail a link to this post to Senator Setzler and (via Twitter) to Governor McMaster.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An "ambassador" who treats the bereaved like dirt?

Update 1/19/2017 - Lately I've been standing in front of Senator Setzler's law firm with a sign directing folks to this blog, and this afternoon I also stood in front of Lexington County Probate Court. MANY THANKS to everyone who signaled support. Iinterest in the issue seems to be increasing.

I received a tweet from a probate-reform activist in Texas after I tweeted that it's my pleasure to confront America's probate racket, pointing out that the bereaved are treated like dirt. @ReneeinTx tweeted back, "TY!! you do understand, how they have disgracefully disrespected the soul of my husband and me. bless you from my heart."

I understand quite well, and Renee and I have lots of company all across the land. My case features an insulting effort to make it appear - wrongly and publicly - that my mother left no will. Prior to the time limit being placed on wills, my mother paid an attorney to have a will drawn up, her wishes are clearly stated, and that will should be honored. Anything short of that is a scam, and I cannot in good conscience be silent about it.

Members of the probate/trust gang - headquartered in the South Carolina legislature - are some of the absolute lowest forms of life in the universe. Their ghoulish counterparts rob graves under cover of darkness.

From the gang's point of view, the more shattered their victims are, the better for the gang's bank accounts. These sorry excuses for humans smugly assume that they'll never be confronted by those they torment and fleece. Their entire racket depends on bullying their victims into submission.

Is it easier to cooperate with a gang of thugs than to confront injustice? Bereaved victims who choose to cooperate apparently hope - in a kind of pitiful desperation - that the process of bereavement will be lessened if they quietly submit to the indignities, the insults, and the unwarranted costs hurled at them by "their" elected representatives. The probate/trust gang plies its disgusting trade quite well, self-assured that its already-wounded victims wouldn't dare to confront a perverse, well-entrenched power structure such as theirs.

It adds insult to injury that President-elect Trump picked South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for - of all things - an ambassador. He favors a governor who - by her appalling silence - treats the bereaved like dirt. When I tweeted Trump and Haley "An ambassador who treats the bereaved like dirt?" my activist friend in Texas fired off a tweet to Haley that epitomizes the justifiable anger of victims of the probate/trust racket: "@nikkihaley how about rectifying your bad deeds in probate before you climb the ladder? Disgraceful!" followed by a link to this blog. Trump's choice certainly doesn't bode well for efforts to clean up the probate racket.

America has become a sleazy little rat-hole of corruption, deceit, and dishonesty. A place where corporate crookedness holds sway in every aspect of society. We no longer have rule of law or a free press, and regulatory agencies protect not the public, but those entities they are charged with regulating. In my open remarks to Senator Setzler, I asked a number of questions which the senator sidestepped when he replied to my e-mails. I think Senator Setzler and his cohort attorney-legislators should have to disclose the amount of income their law firms made from inheritance-related matters. As for the probate/trust racket in general, the former attorney I heard from offered an apt summary: "...attempts to steal the proceeds of estates has been a national disgrace for a long time."

Time limits on wills needs to be eliminated, not reformed, and the state's probate process needs to be simplified. Let's help the bereaved heal instead of trying to rip them off.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.

Update 1/18/2017 - My pleasure to tweet Governor Haley and President-elect Trump a link to this post.

Update 1/25/2017 - Somehow, I doubt that ATTORNEY - and now governor - Henry McMaster is gonna do anything to end South Carolina's probate racket. Sent the new governor a tweet - with a link to this poet - encouraging him to change the legislature's policy of treating the bereaved like dirt.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Election time, and the probate/trust gang is laughing all the way to the bank. Or to church...

"A worse criminal government has never existed. Yet, Americans remain subservient to the criminals that they have placed in power over themselves." - from an article by Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Ya can't really blame the probate/trust gang for those peals of laughter. Election time, and not one word about South Carolina's probate/trust racket. The money-grubbing scum who make life miserable - and expensive - for the bereaved have got to be rolling in the aisles as a cowardly public quietly submits to abuse and lines the pockets of probate attorneys and trust operations all across the state.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

America has degenerated into a sleazy little rat hole of pervasive corruption in both the public and private sectors, promoted by a presstitute mainstream media that "knows better" than to "tell it like it is." The very idea of "lawmakers" quietly passing probate laws designed to pad their own pockets, assured that we no longer have a free press offering any oversight.

As attorney-legislators do everything possible to nullify wills, someone said a friend of theirs from Kentucky was told that because a will written in that state had a "death with dignity" clause, the will wouldn't be valid in South Carolina. More evidence - none was needed - that probate attorneys are no longer satisfied to be paid exorbitant fees to draw up wills. They now want to also be paid gobs of moolah to administer estates, and the more wills that get nullified, the more profitable it is for members of the probate/trust racket. The scam works best, of course, when an unsuspecting public remains unaware of absurd laws designed to enrich the bank accounts of the probate/trust gang. Never underestimate the shock when a bereaved taxpayer suddenly discovers that "their" government has turned on them like a mad dog.

There wuzza time when slobs who betrayed the public trust ran the risk of being tarred, feathered, and ushered out of town on a rail. But no more. If anything, Americans have reduced themselves to name-droppin', social-climbin' morons who consider it an honor and a privilege not only to re-elect, but also to do business with high-falutin' thugs who hold political office. Amerika may be many things - the home of the brave it's not.

If kicking people around who are struggling through the process of bereavement weren't so brutal and cowardly, it would be a hoot watching the likes of Governor Nikki Haley, the South Carolina Policy Council, and "news" organizations like WIS-10 (who bills itself as SC's news "leader") refuse to address the probate/trust racket. The only "news" about probate is blabber extolling the virtues of setting up a trust, like a guy from Ensemble Capital that I heard on the radio program "Health, Wealth, and Happiness." Never any mention, of course, of how probate got to be so untenable for the taxpaying public. Corruption reigns supreme, and the "insouciance" of western peoples has indeed assigned their democracies to the trash bins of history. Another person I spoke with about the probate/trust racket immediately noted the connection between such corruption and the record-setting low voter turnout - I quit voting long ago - for South Carolina's last mid-term election.

I'll betcha every gang member involved in the probate/trust racket makes it a point to show up in church every Sunday without fail. Nuthin' like devotion to the Golden Rule...

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.

Update 11/17/2016 - Unconfirmed news accounts say Gov. Haley is being considered for a position in the Trump administration. Let's hope not - just sent the president-elect a tweet to that effect with a link to this blog.

Update 1/9/2017 - News reports have by now long been confirmed: Trump wants an "ambassador" (Gov. Haley) who treats the bereaved like dirt.




    

Friday, June 17, 2016

Law directing 30 days to file a will makes a mockery of bereavement

I don't know which is more repulsive: a gang of greedy, sadistic slobs in the legislature, or a tail-tucked public that tolerates being fleeced and kicked around.

Talk about laws that help South Carolina probate attorneys fleece the bereaved. You must present a will to the probate court within 30 days of a decedent's death or be subject to a penalty..

Right. Ya wanna hit the bereaved as shortly as possible after the death of a loved one in order to get the maximum impact of all those complexities self-serving attorneys in the legislature have written into the probate process. Sure to send victims of South Carolina's probate racket scurrying off to a probate attorney, checkbook in hand. Then they can tell everyone about "the horrors of probate," and why folks should pay attorneys to set up trusts.

At first, I thought it was kinda strange that the law has been kept relatively quiet. Then I discovered that nobody has actually been penalized for violating the law, and I realized that the 30-day law is just another effort to make life as miserable as possible for anyone who dares to rely on wills and the taxpayer-funded probate process when they claim an inheritance. Surprising heirs with news that they're already in violation of a probate law has that element of shock value, so cleverly and sadistically applied by South Carolina "lawmakers." Someone needs to drive the point home to these self-serving slobs that bereavement is a permanent injury, has no time limits, and affects every person differently.

The probate/trust racket is what tyranny looks like, and it's one shameful state of affairs for South Carolina.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

For SC's probate racket, silence is golden

"...they cannot rescue themselves via the voting booth. In my opinion, the American people will remain serfs until they wake up to Revolution." - Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

It's been a hoot watching the charade of silence surrounding South Carolina's probate racket. From Governor Haley to mainstream media, the guideline is "keep it quiet," and news blackouts are in full swing, most notably, perhaps, by South Carolina's "News Leader," WIS-10. Even the SC Policy Council dares not address the issue. I've sent both of these "news" organizations links to this blog, and my Facebook message (with a link to this blog) to the local radio show, "Return to Joy," - which purports to help folks struggling through the process of bereavement - got no reply. 

A couple of months ago, I tuned in to another local radio spot, Frankie Griffin's "Success in Real Estate Show," and was treated to blabberings from a spokesperson for Caldwell, Inc., extolling the virtues of setting up trusts to avoid probate. How the taxpayer-funded nightmare of probate got started in South Carolina wasn't mentioned, and a "caller" chimed in with remarks about how simply having a will no longer offered any assurance that the probate process would be reasonably simple. Interesting that Caldwell, Inc. was founded shortly before the SC legislature turned the taxpayer-funded probate process into an attorney-serving nightmare for heirs. Realtor Frankie Griffin, incidentally, also promotes Homeowners' Associations (HOAs) - I call 'em neighborhood gangs - and he's quick to point out that HOAs have been granted police powers and can file liens and foreclose on properties. 

Ah, that orchestrated effort at brainwashing a gullible, cowardly public. The "Home of the Brave" is apparently scared to death of a gang of self-serving attorneys in the legislature, not to mention the American Bar Association. 

Meanwhile, Kenny Bingham's bill regarding time limits on wills never even got a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. The effort at keeping things quiet regarding Chairman Bingham's watered-down bill - time limits on wills need to be abolished, not reformed - have been incredibly successful, and as things unfolded, I realized just how determined South Carolina's corrupt power structure is to bury the issue. The realization prompted me to re-publish a post I had previously removed, and include a detailed explanation of how the came to be published.

In my open remarks to Senator Setzler, I asked what it will take for the taxpaying public to get some fundamental decency out of this government. But here's a better question:

How much longer will the taxpaying public sacrifice its time, money, and effort at the alter of a pervasively corrupt power structure?

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.

Update 2/23/2017 - Today I stood in front of the SC State House holding up a sign that directed folks to this blog, and it was a hoot watching a WIS-10 "news" crew drive nonchalantly by, apparently knowing better than to investigate and submit a story.

Update 1/27/2017 - In addition to having a slew of attorney-legislators, South Carolina now has an attorney-governor. Henry McMaster has yet to breathe a word about the probate racket.

Update 6/9/2016 - Dr. Paul Craig Roberts references a great article that discusses efforts to keep the public unaware of corrupt laws. South Carolina's probate racket epitomizes this sorry state of affairs.

Update 7/14/2016 - Caldwell, Inc. recently came up with a new radio ad. Their previous ad belted out "Probate is avoidable, peace of mind is attainable," but any reference to probate has now been removed. My, my, wonder why.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Maybe Senator Setzler didn't get my e-mail...

Update 5/25/2016 - Yesterday at 5:19 PM, I received the following e-mail from Senator Setzler:

Mr. Boyd,

Thank you for cantacting me with your support of H.5196 along with your more recent email regarding this same matter. The bill was just recently introduced in April and has not made it to the Senate for review. Any similar legislation along with this legislation will be reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I am not a member. Upon receipt of your email from two weeks ago, I reviewed the language and have been in communication with others. We are in the last several weeks of this legislative session, and my email responses may be delayed relative to this issue. I am, however, inclined to support Representative Bingham's bill.

Nikki Setzler
______________________________________________________________________________

I'll say one thing about Nikki Setzler, the South Carolina state senator from my district who also happens to be a probate attorney: His law firm sure has a nice suite of offices. Plush carpeting, hardwood floors, the works. I was a bit put off when I first saw the note at the front door telling visitors to make sure they didn't have any grease on their shoes, but once I stepped inside...

I can understand a guy lookin' out for his interests.

Monday two weeks ago, I tried to send an e-mail to Senator Setzler, politely inquiring about what he's done, or plans to do, to simplify South Carolina's probate process. I pointed out that uncalled-for complexities have turned the process into a nightmare for anyone attempting to probate an inheritance, and that it takes an average of one year to complete. I also encouraged him to support Kenny Bingham's efforts to give probate courts discretion regarding when to apply South Carolina's 10 year limit on wills.

I didn't expect a very long list of efforts on his part to simplify the process, or even a willingness to support Kenny Bingham's bill. But I can't find any reply whatsoever.

Maybe Senator Setzler didn't get my e-mail.

Then again, probate attorneys in South Carolina must be incredibly busy these days, so maybe the senator simply doesn't have time to acknowledge e-mails. And if that's the case, Senator Setzler, I certainly understand:

Come to think of it, Senator, there are several other things I'd like to get your thoughts on.

When I spoke with an attorney who works in one of your fancy office suites, he implied that the funeral home should have informed me of South Carolina's 10 year limit on wills. Do you and the lawyers in your firm think that would be the appropriate time to discuss such matters?

As I mentioned in my e-mail, the probate process has become a nightmare. In fact, Senator, it has all the trappings of a racket, whereby people struggling through the process of bereavement are treated like dirt.

Tell me, Senator: What is it going to take for the taxpaying public to get some fundamental decency out of this government? Has the time come for massive displays of non-violent civil disobedience? In what sense do we have a democracy when a gang of so-called "legislators" look out for their own selfish interests instead of the legitimate interests of the people they are charged with representing?

I'll try again on the e-mail, with a link to this post, and I'll send a link to Governor Haley on Twitter. Hopefully, they'll both get the message.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.

Update 5/23/2016 - Many thanks to all those who signaled support as I picketed this afternoon in front of Nikki Setzler's law firm. The senator remains conveniently silent about South Carolina's probate racket.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Former attorney's e-mail shows the direction South Carolina's probate racket is headed

Recently, I got an e-mail from a retired attorney in Illinois. Here are a few excerpts (emphasis mine):

"For years the probate courts have been cesspools. I was not aware of there being a statute of limitations on the probate of testamentary documents, or even the need for one. I was aware that attempts to steal the proceeds of estates has been a national disgrace for a long time.

When I first became a lawyer, I heard a more seasoned lawyer tell his client, "If dad dies, before you call the undertaker, get into the safety deposit box and empty it."

When I asked the question, "why?" I was told that the undertaker put a death notice in the newspaper and the bank sealed the box - it could be reopened only after a representative of the State of Illinois visited the box. In the inspect of the box and inventory by the state in order for the inheritance tax to be assessed, value items usually disappeared. Of course the inspector denied that these items were ever in the box - as the state employee and maybe an assistant were the only ones allowed to examine the box it was their word against yours. You certainly could not search their brief cases.

I then made further inquiry and found that the seasoned lawyer was not the only one who gave that advice or experienced that problem. In fact the advice was quite common and even today most of the people I deal with or dealt with try to avoid keeping fungible items in the box.

No probate is necessary if everyone agrees to the terms of the will and all the legitimate expenses of the decedent are paid.

What is relevant to me is the fact that the probate courts are viewed with such suspicion and fear of fraud. The elder cleansing (guardianship) scandal is so rampant and so venal that people are afraid of the Court, its corruption, and the miscreants who inhabit the same. In a democracy such is intolerable as the Court system is the escape valve of society! We need it to address our legitimate concerns!"

It's way past time for Governor Haley, the SC Policy Council, and mainstream news media to inform the public about South Carolina's probate racket before it gets even worse than it already is.

What YOU can do:

>  Spread the word about the probate/trust racket. Most folks don't find out about the attorney-generated horrors of probate until they are struggling through the bereavement process, and shock value is a key part of the effort to browbeat people into hiring a probate attorney.

>  If you need help with non-probate matters, avoid using attorneys who advertise that they specialize in probate. Many attorneys refuse to get involved in the probate racket, and one of them told me with a wink, "It's a 'highly specialized' area of law."

>  Refuse to be bullied by the attorney-generated horrors of probate into paying attorneys to set up trusts. Probate is financed with tax dollars, and should be an inexpensive, viable alternative to setting up trusts. Executors (now called Personal Representatives) shouldn't need a law degree to probate an inheritance.

>  Cut costs by downloading your own estate documents - especially wills - from the Internet. Paying probate attorneys outlandish fees to "draw up a will" is risky business, because attorney-legislators have a vested interest in nullifying wills.

>  Last - and what certainly shouldn't be least (but probably is) - send "your representatives" an e-mail expressing your sentiments about the probate/trust racket.