What Is a Residuary Clause and Why Is It Important?

When developing your estate plan, it is nearly impossible to address every account or property you own. There are sure to be some things you unintentionally overlook. However, by including a residuary clause, you can intentionally disburse any remaining items inadvertently left over during the estate or trust administration process to a named beneficiary or group of beneficiaries.

Ensuring That Everything You Own Goes to the Right People

During the estate planning process, you may decide that you want to leave certain items to specific individuals. But what happens in the following situations?

  • You forgot to include everything you own in your will or trust.
  • You do not address personal property of little value, like clothing or your extra set of emergency batteries and hand tools in the basement.
  • You acquired new accounts or property after your estate plan was completed but you did not update it accordingly.
  • You have retirement accounts, bank accounts, or insurance policies but do not have completed beneficiary designations.
  • You have not named backup beneficiaries if something happens to your first choice (e.g., they predecease you, are unable to receive their inheritance for some reason, or decide they do not want it).

A residuary clause outlines what should happen to any property that has not been addressed in your documents or assigned to a beneficiary.

Without a residuary clause, your loved ones may be subjected to complications in the probate or trust administration process. Any money or property that has not been specifically left to someone will be distributed according to state laws, potentially going to individuals you did not intend.

The Challenge of Remembering Everything in Your Will or Trust

It can be difficult to meticulously catalog and address every single possession in your will or trust. That is why the residuary clause exists. Provisions can be made in your will or trust for each beneficiary and what they should receive. Then, to ensure that everything you own or that is part of your will or trust is accounted for, a clause similar to one of the following can be added to your will or trust:

“I wish to leave the remainder of my estate to _____.”

“The deceased settlor’s remaining property will be administered as follows:”

When crafting the residuary clause, you can name a person or charity that you would like to have inherit what is left over after you provide instructions for specific items or property. You could also decide to have the remaining amount divided among multiple people, charities, or a combination of both. For more than one person or charity, it can be helpful to specify the percentage that each person or charity will get to eliminate any problems or confusion.

The residuary clause guarantees that everything you own ultimately finds its way to the individuals or charities you want.

Working with an Experienced Attorney

The last thing anyone wants is to leave their grieving family to deal with confusion and disappointment after they pass. When designed properly, wills and trusts can offer clear instructions for an executor, personal representative, or trustee to navigate a smooth administration process. Estate planning attorneys understand how to create comprehensive legal documents that leave no room for ambiguity and avoid complications during probate and trust administration. By working closely with an experienced attorney, you can be confident that every aspect of your estate is thoughtfully considered and that your legacy will be passed on according to your wishes. Call us to schedule an appointment to ensure that all of your hard-earned money and property are properly planned for.