What is a Pour-Over Will?

The term “pour-over describes a testamentary (through a will) transfer of assets to the trustee of a living trust. The most frequent type of pour-over is from a will to an existing living trust. The primary purpose of using a pour-over is to unify the administration and distribution of a person’s probate and nonprobate assets. Property in your name at your death is subject to probate. If you have not left a will leaving this property somewhere, it passes to your heirs as decided by California law. Since you want the trust to control all of your property after you die, you must provide that any property not in the name of your trust gets there through your pour-over will.

A husband and wife establishes a revocable trust for the benefit of their children if both of them die at the same time. They also establish a pour-over will for assets not in the trust. They designate the trust as the primary beneficiary of the husband’s life insurance policy proceeds. Each spouse provides by pour-over will that if the other spouse does not survive, the remainder of his or her property will be poured over into the trust, to be administered under the terms of the trust along with all other assets in the trust including the life insurance proceeds. At the death of both spouses, the family assets will be combined into a single living trust for the children’s benefit. Time and expense will be saved because the family assets will be managed by one trust instead of two or more trusts. Distribution will be straightforward because the trust instrument alone will determine how distribution will be made.