The need for a will as a key component of your estate plan may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of people — even affluent individuals — who don’t have one. A reason for this may be a common misconception that a revocable trust (sometimes called a “living trust”) obviates the need for a will.
Purpose of a will
True, revocable trusts are designed to avoid probate and distribute your wealth quickly and efficiently according to your wishes. But even if you have a well-crafted revocable trust, a will serves several important purposes, including:
- Appointing an executor or personal representative you trust to oversee your estate, rather than leaving the decision to a court,
- Naming a guardian of your choosing, rather than a court-appointed guardian, for your minor children, and
- Ensuring that assets not held in the trust are distributed among your heirs according to your wishes rather than a formula prescribed by state law.
The last point is important, because for a revocable trust to be effective, assets must be titled in the name of the trust. It’s not unusual for people to acquire new assets and put off transferring them to their trusts or simply forget to do so.
To ensure that these assets are distributed according to your wishes rather than a formula mandated by state law, consider having a “pour-over” will. It can facilitate the transfer of assets titled in your name to your revocable trust.
Make it your decision, not your state’s
Although assets that pass through a pour-over will must go through probate, that result is preferable to not having a will. Without a will, the assets would be distributed according to your state’s intestate succession laws rather than the provisions of your estate plan. Contact us with questions regarding your will or overall estate plan.