Over the course of a lifetime, we acquire assets. When we pass on, those assets remain and they will be reallocated. The question is — will you have a say in the matter? Estate planning is a process that gives you a say, and there are many important tools and mechanisms to consider with your attorney as you move forward, including the pour-over will.
What Is a Pour-Over Will?
Black’s Law Dictionary defines a “pour over will” as:
A will giving money or property to a trust.
In other words, a pour-over will is a will written to “pour” all of the estate assets that pass through it directly into a previously created trust at your death. It is a way to make sure that all of your assets, no matter how large or small, are able to be transferred into a trust when you are no longer around to fund the trust yourself.
A pour-over will must satisfy all of the other legal requirements needed to be considered valid under Michigan law. Typically, the “pour-over” mechanism is activated by a written provision which transfers property into an existing trust. A pour-over will is typically used in conjunction with a revocable living trust, also known as an inter vivos trust. You can learn more about the different types of trusts commonly used in Michigan estate planning by clicking here.
A pour-over will can offer a few unique benefits, depending on your specific circumstances. Above all, a pour-over will acts like a safety net or backboard, helping to ensure that your assets will be funneled into your trust — and, by extension, managed and distributed in line with the terms set down in the trust agreement.
Estate planning can be a complex and multifaceted process, and it is not unheard of for things to “slip through the cracks.” Perhaps you simply forgot or overlooked a valuable piece of property that you would have wanted to title into your trust; maybe you acquired a new asset but never got around to adding it into your trust during your lifetime. In such cases, a pour-over will can help provide you with peace of mind, and ensure that your assets will be handled in a manner appropriate for your circumstances. If you do not make any plan to deal with these assets, they may ultimately be subject to Michigan’s strict laws of intestate succession.
At the same time, a pour-over will is a mechanism that can empower you to maintain control. Most commonly, wills are used to distribute assets to your chosen devisees outright; with a trust, you can set up spendthrift provisions, delay distributions, and otherwise manage when and how the trust assets are to be used.
Another potential advantage is that pour-over wills can be used to help protect your privacy. Wills subject to probate are a matter of public record, and pour-over wills are no exception. However, with a pour-over will, you may be able to state that all solely owned assets should be distributed into your trust, rather than detailing specific assets or intended recipients within the will itself. Because trusts are not public record, you can keep a lot of information about your family history and finances a lot closer to the chest.
Finally, pour-over wills can offer a measure of clarity and simplicity in some circumstances. Ultimately, managing and distributing your estate assets may be easier and more straightforward when all decisions are controlled by the trust agreement, rather than multiple mechanisms; this arrangement may also help simplify things for your personal representative in the short-term.
Important Considerations About Pour-Over Wills and Your Michigan Estate Plan
One of the biggest advantages of creating a revocable living trust is that the assets you place into it during your lifetime are able to bypass probate, simplifying the estate administration process and potentially sparing your estate from taxes and fees. However, it is important to note that assets that pass through a pour-over will do not avoid probate, and must be subject to this process before they can be distributed through the trust.
Pour-over wills are subject to probate proceedings; with that said, they can be used to streamline probate as part of a thoughtful and comprehensive estate plan.
Specifically, in most cases a pour-over will works best as a safety net or last resort, to catch any assets that haven’t already been accounted for. If you take action to sufficiently fund your trust during your lifetime, and take advantage of the nontestamentary transfers available to you (such as adding beneficiary designations to your financial accounts or owning property as joint tenants). This way, you can have some peace of mind that your most valuable and important assets will be transferred smoothly and efficiently — lessening the financial and personal costs of probate for your beneficiaries.
Another important thing to note is that pour-over wills are different than testamentary trusts. A pour-over will is used to funnel assets into a trust that has already been established during your lifetime. In contrast, a testamentary trust is created through your will, and only takes effect after your death.
The Importance of Working With an Experienced Michigan Estate Planning and Probate Attorney
Whether you are taking care to plan for your family’s future or put in the position of defending or contesting a will in the Michigan probate courts, know that you do not have to go through these difficult circumstances alone.
Ready to create a plan that will help you maintain control over your most important assets, and help take care of the people who matter most? Our firm has the experience and knowledge to walk you through the process of creating an estate plan that will protect your family.
At the Law Office of Dean E. Patrick, PLLC, we put our legal experience and skills together with our commitment to excellence in representing your rights. You can depend on our law firm’s ability to listen to you and our talent for creative strategies. We will be flexible in order to accommodate your needs, and we work hard to discuss these difficult matters in terms that are easy to comprehend. With staff available 24 hours a day, we’re also never far from your questions and concerns.
If you have further questions or are looking for representation as you navigate Michigan’s tricky probate court system, don’t hesitate to call our Southfield, Michigan office at (833) 469-4897 to set up your initial consultation. You may also click here to get in touch online.
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