It is almost a religious axiom that people should avoid probate. However there are sometimes benefits in probate.
For example it is sometimes beneficial to use inheritance rather than gifting items before death. Real estate should generally not be gifted before death because as a gift real estate maintains its basis, but when it is inherited real estate receives a stepped up basis. Although this should not affect the donor in gift or estate taxes, it has severe income tax implications for the recipient.
However, we are in a unique real estate climate now, where property values have fallen dramatically around the nation. Therefore the difference between the basis of a property and its fair market value may be less now than at other times—making gifts of real estate more attractive now than usual.
Wills are documents written for probate courts, but you can’t avoid them. Wills are THE means by which estate planners plan for the next generation in the event that the parents both die before they are able to raise their minor children. If you do not use a will to make this determination then the decision will be left to a judge. We as parents have an obligation to guide this decision rather than leaving it to a judge we do not know. Wills are also the means by which estate planners control small gifts and personal effects that are not materially valuable enough to be controlled by trusts. Therefore wills are essential.