If I Have a Trust, Do I Still Need a Will?

Since most people who create revocable trusts have established plans to avoid probate, they tend to assume they no longer need a will. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so it is a good idea to have a “pour-over” will as a backup. I’ll explain why.

Property that has been properly transferred into your trust or set up to transfer through other means will not become part of your estate when you die, and so you don’t need a will to manage it. However, sometimes, property gets left out. If you don’t have a valid will, that property passes through the laws of intestate succession and it may need to be divided. It could be distributed in a way you never intended. When you have a will, that document serves as a safety net to cover property that gets left out of the trust.

Most people who have a revocable trust use a simple will referred to as a “pour-over will.” This will takes all property in the estate and transfers it into the trust so it can be distributed according to the terms of the trust. This maintains privacy. Wills admitted into probate become a matter of public record, but with a pour-over will, all the details are spelled out only in the trust documents, and those do not become public.

So the bottom line is that you should have a simple will even when you have a trust. If you don’t, we would be happy to create one for you.