For many Californians, the document in their estate plan that details their assets and how they’re to be distributed isn’t their will. It’s a revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust serves a number of purposes. Many people have them because they typically don’t have to go through probate. This will save your loved ones time, money and work. It also helps keep your estate plan private.
By placing assets like your home, car, boat and accounts in a revocable living trust, you maintain control over them throughout your life as the trustee. Then they can smoothly transition to your beneficiaries upon your death.
You can add and remove assets from the trust – for example, if you sell your home or buy a new car. It’s just a matter of titling the assets in the name of the trust rather than just your name.
Why do you still need a will when you have a living trust?
A revocable living trust doesn’t completely take the place of a will. You will need what’s called a “pour-over will.” It’s called that because it designates that any assets you have that aren’t included in your living trust when you pass away “pour over” into the trust.
A pour-over will helps the trust do its job of keeping your estate out of probate by sending any assets you may have forgotten to include or not yet gotten around to adding will still end up in your trust. For example, if someone forgets to include some jewelry they have stowed away or hasn’t yet changed the title on one of their bank accounts to reflect the trust, the pour-over will covers it.
Note that a pour-over will can accomplish the same thing with an irrevocable living trust.
This is just a brief overview of how pour-over wills work with living trusts. How your pour-over will is written will depend on your individual needs and wishes. No estate planning document is “one size fits all.” That’s why it’s always valuable to have sound legal guidance.