Reasons to Consider a Pour-Over Will

By drafting a will, you’re telling the world whom you want to receive your assets after you pass away. If you die without one, it’s up to the state to decide who gets what, regardless of your heirs’ needs or what you would have wanted.

The intestacy laws (dying without a will) vary widely from state to state. Generally, if you die leaving behind a spouse and children, your assets will be split between them. If you are single and don’t have any children, the state will decide which of your blood relatives are to inherit your estate.

If you have children who are minors, a will is important because it’s the best way for you to name a guardian of your choosing to care for them.

Wills are flexible, they can be amended at any time. In fact, we recommend reviewing your will periodically, especially if your marital status, family dynamics, or assets change.

It’s also wise to review your beneficiary designations for your 401(k), IRA, pension, life insurance policy and bank accounts annually, since those assets pass outside of a will and transfer automatically to the named beneficiaries on the documents when you pass away.

Wills Are Useful When You Have a Trust

Even if you have a trust, a will can be very useful. Though trusts let one set conditions on how their assets are distributed upon their death, and they can minimize gift and estate taxes, people often still need a pour-over will, particularly when not all assets are covered in the trust.

If you establish a revocable living trust which holds the bulk of your assets, you still need a pour-over will to:

  • Ensure that you have a legal guardian for minor children, and
  • Ensure all assets you intended to put in the trust are put there, even if you failed to retitle them before you died.

If you have any assets that are not retitled in the name of your trust, they are subject to probate. If you do not specify in a will who should receive those assets, the probate court may decide to distribute them to someone other than who you would have chosen.

Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about using a pour-over will to supplement a trust.