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What Is a Pour-Over Will?

A pour-over will is a specific type of last will and testament that consolidates assets into a trust after the death of the author. In general, these types of wills will be used in conjunction with a preexisting trust such as a living trust in order to provide clarity in matters of inheritance. 

When planning for end-of-life affairs and division of assets, trusts are seen as an effective method for avoiding the probate process and transfer assets directly to the intended beneficiaries. A pour-over will can assist in this process by funneling any additional assets not already intended for a beneficiary into a trust named by the deceased in their will.

Pour-over wills prevent assets from being distributed in ways that the deceased may not have wished such as through state intestacy laws. A pour-over will can also be employed to ensure the seamless operation of a living trust. By ensuring any neglected assets are later added to the living trust, a pour-over will can protect the wishes of the deceased by properly dividing their estate. Additionally, a pour-over will can protect beneficiaries in the event that the trust in question ceases to exist for reasons of cost or legal challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • A pour-over will is a subtype of last will and testament that transfers undecided assets into a named trust.
  • Pour-over wills are often employed in conjunction with living trusts to ensure that the transfer of assets to beneficiaries is as smooth as possible.
  • Despite facilitating a relatively smooth transition of assets from the deceased to their beneficiaries, a pour-over will must still pass through the probate process which may delay the transfer process. 
  • If you want to establish a pour-over will or living trust, an experienced Trusts & Estates attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

Pour-Over Wills, Trusts, and Estates

A pour-over will can be an invaluable tool for estate planning. Some of its benefits include simplicity, efficiency, and privacy. However, it is important to consider any of the potential drawbacks alongside the benefits. 

One of the biggest benefits of a pour-over trust is the simplicity of asset division. Like any last will and testament, a pour-over will allows the testator to control the division of assets within a single document, with the added benefit of making the asset distribution process simple for the executor as well.

A pour-over will is also very efficient. Since the use of a pour-over will effectively just sends all remaining assets to a trust, it can be a very durable, long-lasting will that doesn’t need significant editing over time. Any newly acquired assets are automatically swept up in the broad language of the pour-over will and delivered to the assigned trust.

Finally, the way that pour-over wills utilize trusts makes them very private. All last wills and testaments become public records after an individual’s death. This means that any curious member of the public could examine this record and discover exactly what assets have been transferred, and to whom. By using a pour-over will, public records will simply state that all assets have been poured into a trust. Since trusts are private financial entities, they will not provide non-privileged individuals with any identifying information.

Pour-over wills do have one, unavoidable weakness: probate. Since a pour-over will is a form of last will and testament, it inevitably must pass through the probate process. The probate court will have to review the pour-over will to determine its legitimacy. After the will is determined to be authentic, the property will also have to be examined. This can extend the time between the death of the individual and the transfer of assets to months, far longer than if the assets were simply placed in a living trust directly.

Bottom Line

If you have a living trust and are planning for your end-of-life affairs, a pour-over will may be just the thing you need to tie up any remaining loose ends. If you are looking to establish a pour-over will, you will need a trusts & estates attorney.

An experienced trusts & estates attorney can craft a pour-over will that meets all necessary local, state, and federal laws. In addition to helping to secure your assets, a trusts & estates attorney can also make the pour-over will as clear and concise as possible to minimize the time it is forced to spend in a probate court.

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