The Pour-Over Will: A Critical Estate-Planning Safety Net
If you live in Florida, it is important to understand probate. Probate is the process of distributing a decedent’s assets and settling their debts after they die. Probate can take months or even years to complete and during this time the decedent’s heirs do not have access to the assets. If the heirs were financially dependent on the decedent while they were alive, this can create great financial hardship. Additionally, probate can be a costly process due to lawyers’ fees, which are all paid out of the assets prior to their distribution. If it is a complex estate or if there are any challenges to the will this can both prolong the process and increase the costs, significantly depleting the estate and distributing less than the decedent would have wanted to pass on. It is important to understand the reality of probate mostly so that you can come up with a plan for avoiding it.
Many people mistakenly think that they can avoid probate just by having a valid will. However, this is not the case. In fact, all wills must be through the probate process to determine their validity and settle any debts or liens on the estate before the assets are distributed in accordance with the will. The will’s validity may also be challenged during this process. For this reason, even with a valid will there can be a lot of unknowns, and it is easy to feel, as a testator, that you cannot really know with certainty whether your wishes will be honored. For this reason, one of the smartest estate planning maneuvers you can make, particularly if you have a large estate, is to create a revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to a trust by transferring them into a trust while you are alive. That way, upon death, these assets are not “yours” and will bypass the probate process. This allows your intended beneficiaries to have immediate access and avoid costly lawyers’ fees associated with probate.
A Pour-Over Will
It is important to note that any assets not transferred into the trust while you are alive will still be your assets upon your death, and therefore will have to go through the probate process. Working with a lawyer can help ensure that you do not leave any assets unaccounted for, but it still happens. If you do not have a valid will any remaining assets left outside of the revocable living trust will go through probate and be distributed by intestate succession. A pour-over will can provide a safety net to keep this from happening. A pour-over will is essentially a will that leaves any remaining assets to your revocable living trust, essentially making your trust the beneficiary. While it will not bypass probate, it will significantly streamline the probate process and ensure that any remaining assets are handled the way you wanted.
Talk to a Florida Estate-Planning Lawyer
If you are ready to begin coming up with a comprehensive estate plan to ensure that your wishes are honored and your loved ones are cared for, the experienced estate-planning lawyers at the SG Firm can help. Call today to schedule a consultation.