Pour Over Will

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A pour-over will is created to “catch” any assets or property that had been left out of a living trust, either intentionally or inadvertently. A living (or inter vivos) trust is a legal instrument in which the grantor—the one who owns the property—transfers control of property to a trustee to manage for one or more beneficiaries during the grantor’s lifetime. Sometimes, for convenience, people intentionally omit putting certain assets, such as a car or real estate, into a trust. Upon the testator’s (grantor’s) death, the pour-over will must go through probate, and any property not left to specific beneficiaries will spill over into the trust for the benefit of the trust’s named beneficiaries.

Unlike a testamentary trust will, which creates a trust upon the death of the testator subsequent to probate, a pour-over will does not create a trust. The trust associated with it is a living trust, which the testator created either at the same time he wrote his will, or at some time prior to writing the will. The pour-over will and the living trust are connected. However, the living trust itself is a valid document and can exist without the pour-over will while the pour-over will must be linked to a trust in order to have a destination for the left-over assets and property.

This example illustrates the difference. Suppose you own a house, two cars, some jewelry, and $250,000 cash in bank accounts. You set up a living trust (set up during your lifetime) for the benefit of your children, and you transfer your bank accounts into the trust to be managed by your appointed trustee, possibly yourself. Your estate attorney helps you write a pour-over will, and in your will, you leave your house and cars to your children, but forget to mention the jewelry. After you die and your will goes through probate, because of the pour-over provision in your will, your jewelry will go into the living trust, one of the beneficiaries of the will, which, in turn, benefits your children.

If, instead of setting up a trust during your lifetime, you make a testamentary trust will, after your death and after probate, a trust will be set up and the specific assets you indicated in your will shall go into the trust for the benefit of your trust beneficiaries. This trust does not exist until you die.

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