When it comes to estate planning, most people are familiar with either a will or a trust. However, few people understand the relationship between the two, especially the crucial role of a pour-over will for anyone who has established a trust. There’s a common belief that a trust alone is a complete estate plan. It’s important to clarify when and how a will should be used to complement a trust in the legal context of Tennessee and Kentucky. 

What is a Pour-Over Will? 

It is common practice to have a will along with your trust. In the estate planning world, this will is often known as a “pour-over will.” Think of a pour-over will like a traditional will, which is signed, witnessed and notarized. A pour-over will’s primary function is to leave any assets individually owned by the trust’s creator — meaning assets that are not titled in the name of the trust — to the trust. It acts as a safety net, ensuring that all your assets ultimately get distributed according to the terms of your trust. This is a safeguard to prevent unintended consequences if assets are overlooked or mistakenly left out of the trust.  

How Do Pour-Over Wills Help Avoid Probate? 

When you establish a trust, you typically transfer your assets into it. This process is often referred to as “funding the trust.” Sometimes, people inadvertently leave some assets out of the trust, either by oversight or because they acquire new assets after the trust is established but forget to title them in the trust’s name. 

A pour-over will helps prevent these assets being left to the mercy of the state’s default intestacy laws, but instead flow into the trust. Ideally, the pour-over will is never utilized, because of the fact wills traditionally must go through probate. Probate is a public, often time-consuming and expensive, legal process that must be completed before the distribution of assets. Most of the time, individuals who have a trust in place created this estate plan to help their loved ones completely avoid the probate process. 

Next Steps 

To conclude, it is best practice to create a pour-over will to complement your trust. Since your trust handles your assets, your pour-over will can fulfill various vital roles, including guardian nominations for minor children and acting as a safety net for any assets left out of the trust. To ensure that your trust and pour-over will are in alignment with your wishes and state legal requirements, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. Our team of attorneys are here to answer your questions and develop an estate plan that best suits your needs. Call Crow Estate Planning and Probate today at 931-218-7800 to schedule a free consultation.