You likely have a will and one or more trusts as part of your California estate plan. But before you sit back with a sigh of relief, thinking that you now have everything just the way you want it, you need to do one more thing. Review all your documents to make sure your will and your trust(s) work together.
Remember, however many trusts your estate plan includes, the only assets in those trusts are the ones you transferred into them at the time you set them up. All your other assets, except for those you own in joint name with someone else, still belong to you personally and will become part of your probate estate when you die. This may make it difficult for your executor and your trustee(s) to carry out your wishes exactly as you intend. Updating your will, if necessary, to make it a pour-over will can solve this dilemma.
How a pour-over will works
Normally you use your will to designate who you want to receive your various pieces of property after you die. But when you execute a pour-over will, you also instruct your executor to pour over all your probate estate assets into the trust(s) of your choice. This gives you the following benefits:
- You can stop constantly updating your various trusts to include new assets you acquire.
- You now have a single catchall document, i.e., your pour-over will, that will automatically allow any assets you still personally own at the time of your death to seamlessly flow into the trust(s) of your choice.
- You gain peace of mind knowing that all the legal documents composing your estate plan actually do work together to achieve the results you want.
Your best strategy in assuring full compatibility between and among your various estate planning documents consists of making sure your pour-over will mentions your trust(s) and your trust(s) mention your will. In addition, you and your attorney should make sure that no document contains language that conflicts with the language in any other document.