You might conclude from this, “Ah, so I don’t need a will!” But even with a trust, we still prepare what is called a Pour-Over Will. This type of will states that, if you neglected to transfer an asset into the trust, the will can be used to scoop up and “pour over” that asset into the trust, and thus avoid probate. This specific language in a Pour-Over Will should read something like “My Executor will distribute my entire estate to the Trustee of the [your name] Family Trust.”
The other important function of a will is to nominate guardians for your minor children (under age 18 in California). If both parents of a minor child are deceased, the court will hold a hearing to determine who will act as guardian of the minor child. This process always involves the probate court, since the court wants to make sure the person(s) the parents have nominated as guardians are the right choice – they are still willing and able to act in this role.
A few clients have told me, “I don’t need a Pour-Over Will, since I’ll fund my trust properly and I don’t have minor children!” But we don’t know which assets you might have upon your death. For example, you may have inherited some property and you didn’t have a chance to transfer title into the trust, or a beneficiary of a retirement account has died or disclaimed his or her interest, so that asset would otherwise go into your estate. The Pour-Over Will is still an essential part of an estate plan.