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Understanding Pour-Over Wills

Law Office Of Corey J. Rossi Oct. 16, 2023

Pour over will word represented by wooden letter Whether you are thinking of drafting a will or already have one, understanding how pour-over wills work can give your estate plan an added layer of security. If you have questions about or want to create a pour-over will, call us at the Law Office of Corey J. Rossi in Tonawanda, New York. Our estate planning attorneys can thoroughly discuss your options and implement the estate plan that is best for you and your family.  

What Is a Pour-Over Will?

A pour-over will is a type of will that allows you to transfer property from a pre-existing living trust, upon your death. A pour-over will is typically used alongside a living trust to make sure that all of the decedent’s property that did not make it into the trust before their death ends up there afterward. 

How Do Pour-Over Wills and Trusts Work?

First, we should briefly discuss the revocable living trust, or the estate planning document used alongside a pour-over will. A revocable living trust allows you (the trustee) to move assets into the trust that will not be subject to probate upon your death (thus saving your beneficiaries time and money) and that will not be a matter of public record. Upon your death, the “successor trustee” that you appointed to manage the trust will step forward and follow the directions set out in the trust for the dispersal of the assets.  

So, what is the purpose of a pour-over will if you’ve already set up a trust? A pour-over will is created to ensure that all assets that you did not specifically put into the trust filter into that trust upon your death. Even if you’ve been careful in your estate planning process, some assets might not make it into the trust before your death. This can happen for many reasons (illness, sudden gain of assets, etc.). The pour-over will essentially acts as a backup, making sure that your entire estate is transferred into the trust and nothing is left unaccounted for.  

Pros and Cons of a Pour-Over Will

As noted above, the pros of a pour-over will include security and peace of mind. You know that your assets will transfer into your trust and become available to your beneficiaries.  

However, a pour-over will is still a will, and as such it is still subject to probate. The good news is that probate usually takes less time with assets in a pour-over will. If you’ve planned carefully with an attorney, it is likely that the pour-over will won’t contain any asset that is likely to trigger a longer time in probate.  

As well, leftover assets not placed in a pour-over will are inherited according to New York’s intestacy laws instead of going into the trust. A pour-over will is necessary to avoid this if you only have a trust as part of your financial estate plan. 

The Duties of the Executor and Trustee

The executor of your pour-over will usually only has to transfer the assets from the pour-over will to the trust upon your death, upon which the successor trustee will take over the management of your assets. Once the assets are in the trust, your beneficiaries also gain the privacy that a trust affords; all details about the trust are private. As noted above, probate is usually less time-consuming and less expensive with a pour-over will. 

Once the successor trustee begins to manage the trust, they must follow the instructions set out in the trust. From here, the successor trustee has the same job as any other successor trustee: to divide the assets among the beneficiaries according to the trust’s instructions. Depending on your instructions, they may need to manage the money in the trust for only a short time or for a period of years (for example, if one of your children is a minor and cannot receive their inheritance until they reach a certain age).  

Things can get more difficult for the executor or successor trustee if you’ve accidentally left a large amount in the pour-over will, however. To avoid this situation, it is best to plan fully with a knowledgeable attorney and review your documents periodically (including whenever you go through a life change, such as marriage or divorce, or when you gain or lose assets) to ensure that your estate plan remains solid.  

Trusted and Experienced Guidance

If you are thinking of drafting or modifying your estate plan in New York, call us at the Law Office of Corey J. Rossi, serving Tonawanda as well as Amherst, Wheatfield, and throughout Erie and Niagara Counties. Our attorneys Corey J. Rossi and Don Lewinski III are dedicated to serving your individual needs as well as the needs of your family. We can work to ensure your family’s future security. Above all, we pride ourselves on providing support and guidance as well as our close client relationships. Call us today for an appointment and start planning for the future of your family.