For most people, a Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation for a comprehensive estate plan. After all, a Will is usually the first estate planning document you create and execute. As time goes by, and you add additional goals and objectives to your estate plan, however, your Will may become less important. It may become more of a springboard to other estate planning documents. Do not make the mistake though, of thinking you no longer need a Will. Regardless of how elaborate the rest of your estate plan becomes, you will still likely need to maintain at least a “Pour Over” Will among your estate planning documents. A better understanding of what a Pour Over Will is used for should make is clear why you need one in your estate plan.
The Role of a Last Will and Testament
As you undoubtedly know, the primary function of a Last Will and Testament is to allow the Testator to make gifts of estate assets to beneficiaries. When the Testator dies, the Will is used during the probate of the decedent’s estate. The terms of the Will dictate what happens to the decedent’s estate assets. A Will, however, also allows you to do two other very important things — appoint an Executor and nominate a Guardian. The Executor is the person who will oversee the probate of your estate and can, therefore, contribute greatly to the efficiency of the process if the right person is chosen. Your Will also offers you the only opportunity you will have to tell a judge who you would want to be your children’s Guardian if one is needed.
Sometimes a Will is Not Enough
Although a Will can be used to distribute your entire estate, as you mature, and your estate becomes both more valuable and more complex, you will likely find that a Will may not be the best way to distribute your entire estate.Like many people, you may decide that using a trust is a better option for a variety of reasons. If you have minor children, for instance, they cannot inherit directly from your estate. A trust, however, can protect and grow the assets you leave behind until your children are old enough to inherit them outright. Another reason people choose to use a trust is that trust assets are not required to go through probate, making those assets readily available to loved ones soon after your death. Finally, there are a number of specialty trusts that can accomplish very specific estate planning goals, such as incapacity planning, Medicaid planning, charitable gifting, or special needs planning.
What Is a Pour Over Will and Why Do You Need One?
If you plan to use a trust to distribute your estate assets, you may be wondering why you need a Will at all. You may also be wondering what a “Pour Over Will is and why it is preferable to a traditional Will. A “Pour Over” Will is a term used to describe a specific type of Last Will and Testament that is used to “pour over” assets from your estate into a trust at the time of your death. In a traditional Will the testator makes gifts to beneficiaries within the Will itself. In a Pour Over Will, however, instead of making gifts to beneficiaries within the Will document itself, the testator uses the provisions of the Will to directs all estate assets to be transferred into an existing trust. In essence, a Pour Over Will is a stepping stone within your estate plan that takes you to your primary document(s). The most important reason why you need a Pour Over Will is to take care of any assets that are not included in the trust you created. No matter how organized and meticulous you may be, it is virtually impossible to ensure that all of your estate assets are transferred into a trust prior to your death. Whether assets are overlooked, or acquired right before your death, you can almost be assured that something will not have made it into your trust. In the absence of a Will, anything left outside your trust would be distributed using the New York State intestate succession laws. By executing a Pour Over Will, however, you are able to decide who will receive those assets yourself.
For more information, please join us for one of our upcoming free seminars. If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding a Pour Over Will, of you wish to get started on yours, please contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.