For many Americans, a significant goal of estate planning is to avoid going to court to prove or justify an estate plan (a process known as “probate”).  One simple way to do this is to create a revocable living trust with a pour over will.  While many people are familiar with revocable trusts, pour over wills are often foreign to non-lawyers. 


What is a Pour-Over Will?

            A pour over will is an estate planning device that serves as a safety net to capture any assets that are not transferred to or included in one’s Estate Planning Documentrevocable trust document.  If you do not create a pour-over will, assets that are not included in the trust will be treated as if you died without a will.  This means that certain assets or items will pass to certain heirs based on the laws of Virginia.   Oftentimes, your natural heirs are different than the people you choose to be your trustees, so there is a potential for assets to go to people you do not intend if you do not have the safety-net of a pour-over will. 

            After reading this, many of you are likely thinking, you don’t need this safety-net because surely you would never forget to include important things in your trust, and therefore you don’t need to have a will that does nothing but transfer property into your trust.  However, there are many advantages to a pour-over will, some of which are listed below. 


Advantages of a Pour-Over Will

  1. Completeness – While you may think you are able to transfer everything appropriately and completely into your living trust, most people often do not.  A pour-over will takes care of assets that you either forget about or do not get around to transferring before you die. 
  2. Privacy – Wills are not private, but trusts are.  This will ensure that you are able to control who knows about who inherited what assets, without it being public knowledge. 
  3. The executor’s role is extremely simple – Just as in ordinary wills, a pour-over will nominates someone to serve as executor of the estate.  Normally, the executor’s duties involve paying the debts and taxes of the estate and distributing the assets to the correct people named in the will.  However, in the case of a pour-over will, their job is much simpler – they are only required to take all of the assets that pass under the will and put them into the living trust. 

Overall, it is a good idea to create a pour-over will if you create a living trust.  While it may seem like an extra step, it is an easy step to take to ensure that all of your assets go to the people you intended them to go to instead of who the law thinks they should go to. 

At our family law firm, Smith Strong, we ensure that pour-over wills are included with all trust plans.  Therefore, if you are interested in creating a pour-over will or have more questions about the pros and cons of a pour-over will for your individual estate plan, call Smith Strong at (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298.  
H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg