Wills and trusts work together; neither usually has precedence

Wills and trusts often bring up sensitive questions involving inheritances. Sacramento, Calif., estate-planning lawyer Amy Halloran provides answers.

QUESTION: Which has precedence, a will or a trust? My mother and her second husband wrote identical wills stating that everything is divided equally. Years later they placed the house in a revocable trust. I do not have a copy of their trust and fear the in-laws will change things without my knowledge.

ANSWER: In many cases, a will and a trust work together, with neither document having precedence over the other.

If your mother and her husband have a trust and titled their home in the name of the trust, it will govern the distribution of their home, as well as other assets titled in the trust's name. The will governs the distribution of any assets titled separately in your mother's or her husband's name alone.

If your mother and her husband worked with an attorney to establish their trust, they likely executed new wills, which serve at least two purposes.

First, the new wills should specifically state that all prior wills have been revoked, which means the wills you refer to would no longer be valid. Second, a will executed in conjunction with a revocable trust is often referred to as a "pour-over will." That means after their deaths any assets titled outside the trust would be distributed to the trust for administration.

Share This Story