I’ve Been Told That Even if I Plan with a Revocable Living Trust, I’ll Still Need Something Called a Pour-Over Will. What is That?

The Pour-Over Will serves as a safeguard in case an asset gets left outside of your trust. It’s not uncommon to find that in the process of funding a trust (changing title of assets to the trust name), an asset has been overlooked. Sometimes clients acquire new assets in their own name or joint ownership, forgetting that they must be owned by their trust in order for the trust instructions to be effective.

Under a “Pour-Over” will, the only beneficiary is your trust. Therefore, your Pour-Over Will catches the overlooked asset, and “pours it over” to your trust after your death. Once titled in your trust, the trust instructions will now apply to the distribution of that asset.  However, that transfer will usually still have to go through probate to be put into your trust, because it’s in probate court that the instructions of a will are carried out. This, of course, is not the preferred way to get assets into your trust. It is much more efficient and effective to ensure that all assets are re-titled when your trust is created, and then have in place a system to add new assets to your trust as they are acquired.

Under many state laws, guardians for minor children can be appointed only through a will (not a trust). Therefore, the Pour-Over Will is also used for this purpose.