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Estate Planning: Wills or Trusts?

Dan Caplinger
June 2, 2006

Getting an estate plan can be a daunting task. Some people don't even realize that they need a plan at all, while others may have a nagging feeling that although they should have a plan, they may not have any idea how to get information or to find a qualified professional to help them.

Even those who know good estate-planning attorneys may be concerned over the cost of getting a plan done. It's no surprise that companies like Pre-Paid Legal Services (NYSE: PPD  ) have benefited from the high cost of traditional legal services by offering fixed-cost memberships that remove much of the uncertainty of having legal work done.

I have had countless people walk into my office and tell me, "Dan, I need a trust." When I ask them how they came to that decision, most of them say they had heard that trusts were the best way to plan for their estate. Some had attended seminars that pitch trusts the same way that infomercials sell gourmet knives. But although many estate-planning seminars are perfectly reputable, some of them prey on the vulnerable by offering expensive plans with boilerplate documents that aren't tailored to an individual's particular situation.

At the other end of the spect