I admire Nolo's stated mission of helping the average educated American understand the law (of course, Nolo is also a for-profit company). I own many, many of their books and software products. However, the biggest problem with Nolo products in general is THEY ARE WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ATTORNEYS AND WRITERS BASED IN CALIFORNIA. Sure, they present a lot of information for the national audience, and I'm not questioning whether they present incorrect information for states other than California. But, we all know California is a very unique state, so it is important for the reader of any Nolo book to keep this important caveat in mind.
This book presents 9 ways to avoid probate -- one more than the original 8 presented in earlier editions. (The new addition is transfer-on-death deeds.) The TOD methods, especially vehicle titles and real estate deeds, are only applicable in a handful states. Louisiana, whose state legal system follows the Napoleonic code rather than the English common law, is not discussed -- indeed, the state-specific Appendix A omits the Pelican State altogether.
The biggest problem with this book, hence the 2 stars, is I do not believe it presents enough warnings about potential pitfalls of its recommended methods. It makes it sound like these methods are almost foolproof ways to avoid probate, while in fact they are not, except in certain states *and* for certain estates. For example, the payable-on-death account method is made to seem very straightforward and simple. In theory, it is, but in practice, you must worry about whether the bank loses the POD agreement or your original signature card, something according to a local lawyer in my community happens all too often in this day and age of constant mergers and acquisitions (and spinoffs and then remergers...). Without the original POD agreement *and* an unambiguous signature card, your state will probably not let your bank simple release the fund to your POD beneficiary. Also, equally important, many banks (especially those not HQ'ed in the state you live in, but often even those HQ'ed locally) may simply have the wrong forms for you to fill out. Come account transfer time after you die (pardon me), your beneficiaries may have a difficult time actually collecting the funds without ending up in probate court. Samething for TOD accounts for securities. What does this mean? I'm not a lawyer, but to me it means while POD (along with TOD) is still a good concept, you may not want to use it for large accounts. (I myself do use POD accounts because I don't have much money.) My point is, such important warnings should have been presented to the reader.
The gift-giving chapter is also a little thin. Another problem with the book, as with most Nolo books, is it constantly cross-sells other Nolo books and products. Anyone who's read a Nolo book knows what I mean.
In the end, I think this book provides some good summary information, but I believe it's erroneous to make probate avoidance sound so simple, whereas in fact state laws often make such avoidance cumbersome. I think the author is 100% right in asserting that the legal system appears to conspire to enrich probate lawyers.