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 spectrum are those who believe that professional estate planning is unnecessary. "Why should I pay a lawyer hundreds or thousands of dollars? I can get a do-it-yourself will kit and take care of it on my own," you'll hear these folks say. And they're right -- they can. A quick search at (NASDAQ:AMZN), Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), or Borders Group (NYSE:BGP) pulls up a number of will kits in the $10 to $20 range.

Estate planning is a complicated legal area, full of pitfalls for the unwary. Although drafting your own legal documents is a risky proposition, many people are willing to take on that risk. Regardless of whether you get professional advice, the best thing to do is to get information that will help you ask good questions, make informed decisions, and understand your estate plan once it is complete and in place.

This short series of articles looks at one important question: Should you have a will or a trust? The answer depends on your own particular needs and your current circumstances. By understanding the pros and cons of each, you can make a conscious choice with confidence.

To read more on each option, follow the links below.

Find out what we've learned about retirement planning in our two-year anniversary issue of Rule Your Retirement . The theme this month is "Eight Steps to Ruling Your Retirement." And you can have a look by taking a risk-free trial today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger welcomes feedback and doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.