When you ask someone what they know about estate planning, most people will tell you about the Last Will and Testament. In fact, very few people will mention a Pour-Over Will.  Today, our estate planning lawyers will explain the difference.

While a Last Will and Testament is a standalone legal document that directs how your estate should be handled once you pass away, a Pour-Over Will is used along with a Trust, most often a Revocable Living Trust. The Will directs that any assets owned outside of the Trust at the time of your passing should be placed into your Trust and then distributed according to trust guidelines. The big difference here is that assets in a Pour-Over Will, unlike those in a Last Will and Testament, are distributed privately according to the guidelines of the Trust.

Here’s an example of why a Pour-Over Will is useful in estate planning:

At the time of your death, let’s say you owned a piece of property that you forgot to transfer to your Revocable Living Trust. This oversight would cause the property to fall “outside” of your Trust, and it would not receive the protections that the Trust provides. However, because you had a Pour-Over Will, your asset would still get directed back into your Revocable Living Trust anyway.

As mentioned above, one of the greatest advantages of using a Pour-Over Will is that it does not have to go into detail on how the estate assets will be distributed. Instead, it just states that the assets should go into the Revocable Living Trust. This is an important aspect of estate planning, especially for anyone concerned about privacy, since personal affairs can be made public through the probate process.

However, just like a regular Last Will and Testament, the Pour-Over Will is subject to probate proceedings. These proceedings can be long and complex, however, the length and complexity depend on the amount of assets that were held outside of the Revocable Living Trust. The Trust continues to exist for as long as the estate is in probate, which means Trustees’ fiduciary responsibilities may extend for longer than they thought. A basic probate proceeding can last anywhere from a few months to several years.

If you have any questions about the difference between a basic Last Will and Testament and a Pour-Over Will, or if you’d like to review your existing estate plan to ensure it still fits your situation, please contact us at 941-909-4644 or 763-420-5087 to set up a consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers.


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Chuck Roulet
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Nationally Recognized Estate Planning Attorney, Author, and Speaker
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