In a general sense the choice between a revocable living trust and a last Will is an either/or proposition. They are both vehicles of asset transfer and, contrary to popular belief, living trusts can indeed be a viable solution for people who are not particularly wealthy.
This is because your assets will be transferred to your beneficiaries outside of the process of probate if you use a living trust. Many families prefer to avoid probate because it is expensive in many cases; can be quite time-consuming; and is distressing during an already very emotional time. People are also often uncomfortable with the fact that probate is a matter of public record. Finally, you may be exposed to multiple probates if you own real property in more than one state.
However, if you do choose to state your final wishes by using a revocable living trust you still need to execute two different types of Wills.
One of these is called a pour-over Will. These are necessary for two reasons. First, the pour-over Will revokes all previously executed Wills and Codicils. It wipes the slate clean so you do not have conflicting estate planning documents in place. Second, the pour-over Will designates your revocable trust as the beneficiary of your estate. So, if you inadvertently fail to correctly title an asset in your trust’s name the pour-over Will insures the asset will end up in your trust before being distributed to your beneficiaries. Caveat: if you have to utilize the pour-over Will to transfer an asset into the trust at death it will have to go through probate before it is titled in the name of the trust.
The other will that is highly recommended to everyone regardless of what vehicle of asset transfer you’re using would be a living Will. These documents are utilized to express your choices with regard to medical procedures such as being kept alive via the use of artificial life-support measures should a situation arise where there was no hope of recovery.
When you are planning your estate there are a lot of details to take into consideration, and there is no reason to expect the typical layperson to have an understanding of all of the options and subtleties that can occur.
However, if you work with a good Oklahoma City inheritance planning lawyer you can be certain that nothing will be overlooked as you create an ironclad estate plan for the benefit of those that you love.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday