Using a Pour-Over Will as a Safety Net in Estate Planning
The principal goal of estate planning is making sure that your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes once you’re deceased. Your last will and testament is one method of issuing directions for the handling of your estate. However, many people choose to create a living trust, which appoints a trustee to carry out these functions. If you choose to go that route, it may be advisable to also execute a pour-over will.
A pour-over will is similar to a traditional will but it has an important difference. Rather than distributing assets directly to several beneficiaries, a pour-over will provides that all of your assets (if not otherwise transferred) are to go to a single beneficiary – your living trust. That means those assets are placed under the control of your appointed trustee, who must handle them according the trust’s general instructions.
Revocable living trusts are designed principally to avoid probate, the court process that is followed when a decedent leaves a will that must be validated and administered. An estate probate is a public case. Notice is given to all potential heirs and claimants, who can come forward to challenge the will or some of its provisions. Probate can thus be an expensive and complex proceeding. A trust, on the other hand, is administered privately and typically is uncontested, which means that beneficiaries can receive their property without delay or expense. However, a trust only covers the property that you place within it. Everything else is subject to state inheritance law unless you’ve taken other steps.
A pour-over will essentially acts as a safety net in estate planning. Although you may have intended to include all your assets in your living trust, some may have been overlooked. Also, you may have held property that you thought would pass automatically to another person but, in fact, remains in your ownership at time of death. A pour-over will ensures that anything you own will go into the trust and be handled according to its terms.
If you’re looking into estate planning, Jeffrey P. Hall, PLLC can be of invaluable guidance. My firm has years of experience assisting clients throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area with developing estate plans that protect their assets and provide for their intended beneficiaries. Call me at 480-409-5174 or contact me online today.