Estate Planning in North Carolina: Your Guide to Pour-Over Wills

Do you have a will in place? You should. Every adult in North Carolina needs a comprehensive, well-drafted will that is customized to meet their needs, goals, and specific circumstances. Of course, a will is not, by itself, a comprehensive estate plan. You could also benefit from setting up a living trust. If you do have a living trust, there are advantages to drafting a document called a “pour-over” will. Within this article, our Monroe estate planning attorneys explain the key things to know about pour-over wills and living trusts in North Carolina.

Background: Wills and Living Trusts are Common Estate Planning Documents

As a starting point, it is useful to have a basic understanding of wills and living trusts. They are among the most common estate planning documents in North Carolina. A will (last will and testament) is a legal document that lays out your final wishes, including instructions for the distribution of remaining property and assets. In North Carolina, any adult of sound mind can create a will (NC Gen. Stat. § 31-1).

A living trust is a legal arrangement where a person (the grantor) transfers their assets into a trust while they are alive, and the trust is managed by a trustee for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. Unlike a will, a living trust can be used to manage a person’s assets during their lifetime and distribute them after their death, without the need for probate. For a number of reasons a person may opt to use a living trust as an estate planning strategy.

A Living Trust Does Not Replace the Need for a Will (Pour-Over Will)

In many ways, a living trust is designed to help make your will less important—at least as it pertains to the distribution of your assets. When property is put into a valid living trust, it can pass to an heir through the trust arrangement itself, outside of the North Carolina probate process. It no longer has to pass down to the rightful beneficiary through a will. That being said, a living trust does not replace the need for a will. Everyone who has a living trust in Union County should still have a will.

Here is where a pour-over will is useful. In North Carolina, a pour-over will is a legal document that is often used in conjunction with a living trust. In effect, it is a type of will that is designed to “pour over” any assets that were not transferred into the living trust during the grantor’s lifetime. Generally speaking, the pour-over will directs the transfer of those remaining assets to the trustee of the living trust. From there, the assets can be distributed to the trust’s beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust agreement.

A Pour-Over Will is an Important Estate Planning Safeguard

For a living trust to be valid, it has to be properly funded. Of course, people cannot plan for the exact moment that they will pass away. Certain property or assets may have been left out of the living trust. In effect, this means that they will have to go through the traditional probate process. A pour-over will can help to resolve this potential problem. It is a safeguard. A pour-over will ensure that any remaining assets are transferred to the living trust upon the grantor’s death, avoiding the need for probate. Without a pour-over will, assets that had not yet been transferred to the living trust may be subject to the probate process.

Every Person’s Estate Planning Needs are Unique (Customize Your Plan)

Every person’s estate planning needs are unique, and it’s important to customize your plan accordingly. Factors such as family dynamics, financial situation, and personal wishes should all be taken into account. Estate planning allows you to dictate how your assets will be distributed, and ensures that your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your passing. By customizing your plan, you can make sure that it aligns with your values and provides the most benefit to those who matter most to you. A top Monroe, NC estate planning lawyer can help you with the full range of issues, including wills, pour-over wills, and living trusts.

Contact Our Monroe, NC Estate Planning Lawyers Today

At Plyler, Long & Corigliano, LLP, our North Carolina estate planning attorneys are committed to protecting the rights and interests of people and families. If you have any questions pour-over wills and/or living trusts, we can help. Reach out to us by phone or contact us online for your fully private, no commitment case review. From our Monroe office, we provide solutions-focused estate planning services in Union County and throughout the wider region in North Carolina.