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Tips on how to secure a low-cost will

July 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most of us don't have estates as large as Michael Jackson's, but what we do have could be tied up in court or have huge tax consequences if we don't have a will or a living trust.You probably know Robert Shapiro as one of the attorneys who represented OJ Simpson. But Robert Shapiro is also one of the founders of LegalZoom.com, an online legal document service. He says a will and a living trust are crucial.

"If you have anything you love and you want to ensure how that person, or that animal even, is taken care of. If - God forbid - you are deceased, you better have it," said Shapiro.

And it needs to be up to date. Already Michael Jackson's children are the center of a custody battle perhaps because of that. Another problem is not having a living trust because without that your estate could be tied up in an ugly probate.

"You have to go to court. You generally have to have a lawyer. They appoint an administrator. Somebody has to look at everything and go over everything. There are statutory fees that people get for doing these things so it becomes costly," said Shapiro.

So you need both a will and a living trust. But are you confused about the differences between the two?

Your last will distributes property to your beneficiaries. It can name the guardian of your children, and it should specify your funeral, burial and other last wishes.

A living trust helps avoid the cost and delays of probate, keeps the details of your estate private, may reduce taxes and it includes your last will.

Often a living trust will cost you about a $1,000 if you see an attorney. A will can run between $200 to $500 or more depending on how complicated it is.

But if your estate is fairly simple there is no reason you can't complete a will or living trust online and save. At LegalZoom.com, a living trust is just over $200 and includes a will.

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