In California, if you own a home and other assets, you will most likely need a revocable trust to hold title to your home, bank, accounts, investment accounts, personal property, and business interests, if any. Though your trust would be the primary mechanism to transfer your assets to others upon death, a Will is still strongly recommended.


When we have a revocable trust-based estate plan, the reason we still want clients to execute a Will is to ensure that in the event an asset that should’ve been owned by their trust but was not, can still be transferred to others upon death. A Will can name your trust as the beneficiary and some individually owned assets can be added to your trust after death and be administered under the terms of that trust. The Will we were talking about here is a special type of Will called a “Pour-Over Will”. This name describes exactly what the function of this type of Will is. It’s to “pour-over” assets into the trust at death should a client pass away with assets that are left only in their personal name.


In San Diego County and Orange County (as well as all of California), if a client dies owning one or more assets just in their individual name totaling over $184,500, that will trigger the need for the filing of a probate action to transfer the assets to others. Note, however, that this does not include assets that have a named beneficiary, for example an IRA or other type of account that has a designated beneficiary statement attached to it.


In the event a client does have a Pour-Over Will and a probate action is required, a probate petition will need to be filed with the court along with the original Will document. In the probate petition, the court is being asked to “pour-over” by and Order any assets in the client’s personal name to their revocable trust.


If the assets in the client’s personal name total under $184,500, generally we can utilize the Pour-Over Will, in conjunction with a Small Estate Affidavit outside the purview of the court system. Often typical assets of this nature are cars and small bank accounts. 


Further, in some cases, a Pour-Over Will can help aid in getting proceeds from a lawsuit after death into a client’s revocable trust. An example would be an asbestos claim, as those types of claims usually take years to settle and sometimes the client has passed away before settlement proceeds are received.


If you or a friend or family member needs help establishing or updating an existing estate plan, please contact our office at 760-448-2220, or reach out to us through our contact page at

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