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Exploring Wills: Choosing a Simple Will Versus Pourover Will

Overview - Simple Will Versus Pourover Will:

Wills are essential legal documents that dictate how a person's assets should be distributed upon their death. The process of creating a will forces individuals to consider their mortality, but it's a crucial step in ensuring their wishes are respected and loved ones are provided for.

This blog explores two types of wills: the simple will and the pourover will, their definitions, contents, suitable scenarios, and how factors like family circumstances and asset types influence the choice between them.

Retired Couple Meeting With Attorney
Estate Planning

Types of Wills:

Simple Will: A simple will, as the name implies, is straightforward in its structure and intent. It is a document that outlines who will inherit the assets, who will be the executor of the estate, and, if applicable, who will become the guardian of minor children. Simple wills are best suited for individuals with uncomplicated estate plans and relatively modest assets. They are particularly appealing for those who wish to ensure a direct and uncomplicated transfer of their property to their beneficiaries.


Contents & Suitable Scenarios:

-     Definition & Typical Contents: A simple will typically includes the identification of the testator (the person creating the will), a list of tangible and intangible assets, designated beneficiaries for each asset, the appointment of an executor, and guardianship arrangements for minor children, if necessary.

-   Suitable Scenarios: Simple wills are ideal for individuals with straightforward family structures and asset portfolios. For example, a single person or a married individual with a clear line of heirs and limited assets might find a simple will perfectly adequate for their needs.


Pourover Will: A pourover will is a more complex instrument, designed to work in conjunction with a living trust. This type of will ensures that any assets not already included in the trust at the time of the individual’s death are "poured over" into the trust and distributed according to its terms. It offers a layer of protection and control over the distribution of assets that might not be as easily achieved with a simple will.


How It Works and Advantages:

-    Definition & Operation: A pourover will acts as a safety net for assets that were not transferred into a trust during the individual’s lifetime. Upon death, these assets are transferred into the trust, avoiding probate for these items.

-     Advantages: This will is advantageous for those with more complex estates or who seek a higher degree of privacy and control over asset distribution. It can also simplify the management of assets upon death, as the trust dictates the terms of distribution.


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Decision Factors:

Family Circumstances:

Family dynamics play a significant role in deciding between a simple will and a pourover will. For instance, individuals with straightforward family situations might opt for a simple will, as it provides a clear and direct method of distributing assets.

Conversely, those with more complex family structures, such as blended families, might find a pourover will more suitable. A pourover will, in conjunction with a trust, can offer a structured approach to distributing assets among a wider array of beneficiaries with varying needs and entitlements.


Asset Types:

The complexity and types of assets owned by an individual can also dictate the choice between a simple will and a pourover will. Simple wills are typically sufficient for those with straightforward assets, such as a primary residence, a car, and bank accounts.

However, for individuals with more diverse portfolios, including real estate in multiple jurisdictions, valuable personal property, or significant investments, a pourover will can provide a more comprehensive solution.

By funneling assets into a trust, it allows for a centralized management and distribution process, potentially minimizing taxes and avoiding the complications of probate.

Signing a Will for Estate Plan
Signing a Will


Choosing between a simple will and a pourover will depends on an individual’s family circumstances, the complexity of their assets, and their goals for estate planning.

While a simple will may suffice for those with uncomplicated estates and direct beneficiary structures, a pourover will offers enhanced control, privacy, and flexibility for more complex situations.

Ultimately, the decision should be made in consultation with an estate planning attorney to ensure that the chosen will type aligns with the individual's wishes and legal requirements.


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