How Do Pour-Over Wills Work?

What is a Pour-Over Will?

A pour-over will is a last will and testament that transfers all of the deceased person’s property, upon death, into a revocable living trust. Simplifying; a pour-over will directs that all property that passes through the will be transferred (poured over) into the trust. The pour-over will serves as a safety net for the trust. The property that is transferred through a pour-over will must still be probated, but the process will be shortened and taxes minimized.

Visualize that a trust is a bucket and the grantor’s (the person who creates the trust) assets are held in that trust bucket. Any assets that are outside of the trust bucket when the grantor dies are subjected to probate. The pour-over will scoops up any assets that are outside of the trust bucket at the time of the grantor’s death, then pours them into the trust bucket.

Is a Pour-Over Will Private?

If someone values their privacy, nothing will be revealed throughout the probate procedure. The probate will just state that the assets were moved to a trust and that the trust’s provisions are still private. Additionally, it keeps the estate plan basic because once the assets are transferred into the trust, they will be subject to the same rules as the assets already held in the trust at the time of the grantor’s death. The grantor’s assets will be governed by a single document. Because of this, any estate plan that makes use of a revocable living trust must include the pour-over will.

Additionally, using a trust-based estate plan, parents can designate guardians for their minor children. If the parents do not name guardians for their minor children in the pour-over will, the court will decide who should be responsible for raising the children in the event that the parents pass away. Naturally, parents would prefer to appoint guardians for their children rather than leave this decision up to the court and run the danger of having their kids raised by someone they would disapprove of.

Pour-Over Wills and Probate

A pour-over will provides benefits over a standard probate procedure even though it does not prevent probate. One of the benefits is that the grantor’s payouts are kept confidential. The only thing that will be revealed throughout the probate procedure is that the assets ought to be transferred to the trust. Since the trust is not a matter of public record, none of its provisions will be made available to the public. The only thing the court needs to ensure is that the assets have been transferred into the trust, not that all of the beneficiaries have received notice or distributions. Thus, the probate is kept brief and minimal.

Here’s an example:

Imagine establishing a trust as part of an estate plan, but the grantor forgets to add an investment account or newly purchased property to the trust’s holdings before passing away.

There is now a significant asset that is not covered by the trust agreement and, in the absence of a pour-over will, would be distributed by the court as if the decedent had passed away intestate, which means that he or she had no estate plan in place.

In this situation, the investment account’s money could end up flowing to people who they never intended to benefit. With a pour-over, the probate judge is instructed to pour the asset into the trust, where it will be managed and dispersed in accordance with the trust document. It will preserve the grantor’s wishes.

If you have any questions about pour-over wills, trusts, probate, or estate planning contact attorney Chuck Bendig for a consultation.


Charles Bendig

I’m Chuck Bendig,

“For 40+ years, I’ve served Ohio residents. My private practice spans family law, estate planning, and personal injury cases. My commitment is rooted in genuine care for the individuals I serve.”

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