Legal Insurance

What Is a Pour-Over Will?

3 min read
Dec 05, 2022

Pour-over wills automatically transfer an individual’s remaining assets into a trust, which they set up prior to their death. This ensures that, even if certain assets were not accounted for in the standard will, they are still distributed according to the deceased’s wishes.

Considering a pour-over will as part of your estate planning? Keep reading to learn more.

How do pour-over wills work?

Pour-over wills are created along with a trust. One of the big advantages of trusts (depending on the type) is the opportunity to avoid probate. A grantor — the person creating a will — moves their assets into a trust, which then distributes assets to beneficiaries after a grantor’s death. However, grantors aren’t always able to move all of their assets into a trust in time. That’s where pour-over wills come in.

Think of a pour-over will as a failsafe. If any assets are unaccounted for, a pour-over will ensures they’re automatically placed in a trust for a grantor’s named beneficiaries. This type of will can also include a backup plan, should the trust dissolve or become invalid. In that case, a pour-over will provides instructions to distribute any assets previously in the trust to the named beneficiaries.

Pour-over will vs standard will

How do pour-over wills compare to standard wills? The main difference is in scope. A standard will is intended to account for the entirety of the deceased’s estate. They provide instructions for distributing all assets. By comparison, a pour-over will only gives instruction for handling assets not included in the standard will.

Do pour-over wills go through probate?

It all depends on the state that the will was written and executed in.  One of the main advantages of certain trusts is that they avoid probate, but in some states probate and death taxes may still apply to a pour-over will. Probate can be a lengthy and expensive process, depending on how many complications arise while an estate is being evaluated. Many grantors establish trusts so their beneficiaries don’t have to deal with probate.

Pour-over wills in action: an example

Let’s say you and your spouse have begun your estate planning. You’ve decided to create separate wills, but you both agreed that a trust is the best way to pass assets to your family and friends.

Because you’re proactive, you’ve gotten a head start on estate planning by working with an estate planning attorney to create your wills and set up the trust. Everything is finalized, taking a large weight off your shoulders. But what happens if your assets change?  Or if you’re no longer able to fund the trust, and it then becomes invalid? A pour-over will can include instructions for what to do with your assets should that happen.

So, rather than revising your wills, you decide to create a pour-over will. In it, you specify that any assets you and your spouse obtain, that aren’t included in your wills, should transfer into the trust upon your death. You also make sure to outline what should happen if there are complications with the trust, stating that your assets will automatically go to your beneficiaries.

Want to know more about creating a pour over will? An estate planning attorney can answer questions unique to your situation.

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This article is intended to provide general information about insurance. It does not describe any Metropolitan Life Insurance company product or feature.

Group legal plans are administered by MetLife Legal Plans, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. In California, this entity operates under the name MetLife Legal Insurance Services. In certain states, group legal plans are provided through insurance coverage underwritten by Metropolitan General Insurance Company, Warwick, RI. Payroll deduction required for group legal plans. For costs and complete details of the coverage, call or write the company.