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Pour-over wills work as safety nets for revocable living trusts

People in Florida set up revocable living trusts so that they can transfer wealth and property to beneficiaries privately without review by probate courts. A document known as a pour-over will can be written in conjunction with trust documents to address estate assets that were not placed within the trust prior to a benefactor's death. A pour-over will essentially assign leftover assets to the trust.

The pour-over will would apply to any estate assets that are not governed by other rules, such as a beneficiary designation on a retirement account. When this type of will is in place, it could prevent unpredictability if someone dies without actually transferring assets into the trust that were intended for the trust. Without the pour-over will, assets outside of a trust would fall under the purview of the probate court. At that point, in the absence of any kind of will, state law would select heirs according to arbitrary guidelines.

The rules of intestate succession generally identify heirs according to family relationships. Surviving spouses, parents, children and grandchildren typically represent the first relatives that qualify legally as heirs. Ideally, people do not rely on state law to determine the beneficiaries of an estate because they want to choose who receives portions of an estate.

A person with questions about trust planning could seek legal advice. An attorney could answer questions about about possible taxation and how to develop a strategy to transfer wealth privately. Goals, such as funding a grandchild's education, donating to charity or passing on a business, could be discussed with an attorney who might suggest how to design a trust to enable distributions according to the person's wishes.

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