A revocable trust and pour-over will are complementary tools

At Baker, Dublikar, Beck, Wiley & Mathews in Ohio, we understand that estate planning may seem confusing, especially for people who have significant assets. While you may have heard of the benefits of wills and trusts as separate tools, the truth is that they can work together to simplify matters for your beneficiaries after you die.

When you create a revocable trust, you transfer your assets to the trust. Then, while they are available for your use and can be under your control during your lifetime, after your death the trustee you choose will manage and distribute them to the beneficiaries you named. Because the assets do not need to go through the probate process, as a will does, they are immediately available for your heirs.

On the other hand, assets mentioned in a will must go through the probate process. A judge validates the will, debts and taxes are paid out of the estate, and then the executor distributes the remainder to your beneficiaries.

So why would you need both?

Although you should place new assets in the trust as you acquire them, it may not be possible to keep it fully updated. For example, you may upgrade your vehicle, purchase new jewelry or sell your vacation home and purchase a new one. Of course, you intend to make the changes, but if you do not get around to it, they may not be distributed to your beneficiaries in the way you intended.

This is where a pour-over will comes in.

FindLaw explains that this written document, bearing the signatures of you and two valid witnesses, serves as a catch-all for those assets not in your trust at your death. These assets still have to go through probate before they are added to your trust, but because trusts do not become public record, the information about your estate remains secure. Once the executor transfers the assets, the trustee can go ahead with their management or distribution.

To avoid confusion and possible conflict, your trust should mention your pour-over will, and the will should refer to the trust. More information about wills and trusts is available on our webpage.