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Shawn McCammon
Shawn McCammon
Attorney at Law

Shawn McCammon is the founder and managing shareholder of McCammon Law. Shawn has been practicing for over 20 years, starting off in litigation before working in-house as a corporate attorney, and finally opening his own firm in 2009.

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What is a Pour-Over Will?

August 14, 2023
This type of will can ensure that your assets go where you want them to. However, there are many misconceptions about them.

You may have come across the term “pour-over” will in a conversation with an estate planning attorney, especially as it relates to revocable living trusts. When written alongside a revocable living trust, a pour-over will ensures that certain unallocated assets will be, in the end, accounted for, according to a recent article, “4 Concepts You May Be Getting Wrong About Pour-Over Wills” from The Street.

Assets not already transferred to a trust during your life will be transferred or “poured over” into the trust after going through probate after your death.

Probate is the court-supervised legal process used to verify your will and appoint an executor to handle estate affairs.

The goal of the pour-over will is to provide a safety net for any imperfections or oversights during the estate planning process. They are popular for this reason. However, they are also poorly understood and often incorrectly used. Here are four key misconceptions and mistakes to be aware of.

Pour-over wills are unnecessary if you have a revocable living trust. Not true. Many people make the mistake of thinking they don’t need a pour-over will because of their revocable living trust. However, this is wrong. Very few people are as diligent about updating their trusts as they need to be and often die without finalizing the transfer of all assets into their trust. People also simply forget to make transfers. The pour-over will solves this problem.

The executor doesn’t matter because I’m going to fully fund my revocable living trust. Wrong again!  Life often gets in the way of the best of intentions. For example, if you have a large digital asset, like crypto, and completely forget to transfer it into your trust, your executor will be in charge of it. As an aside, you’ll want your executor to be someone knowledgeable about crypto and finances.

I have a living trust and pour-over will. I’m done with estate planning. This would be like saying you had your car washed and won’t ever have to wash it again. The pour-over will takes assets left in your name and moves them into your trust after your passing. The pour-over is a safety net. However, it’s still got to be kept current. Estate planning attorneys recommend a review of your plan every three to five years or whenever there’s a trigger event, like death, divorce, or remarriage. A trust-based estate plan needs to be reviewed every time a new asset is acquired.

There’s no need to do anything in the event the living trust hasn’t been set up when I pass because of the pour-over will. Wait, what? Not true. It’s always possible the disposition of assets into the trust could be invalid or inoperative. To be sure, name the same beneficiaries as presently provided in the trust agreement as contingent beneficiaries in your pour-over will. This will ensure that your objectives are realized, even if somehow a defect in the trust instrument invalidates the intended transfer.

The pour-over will can be extremely valuable in completing your estate plan. However, it still requires reviewing every three to five years to avoid any problems. Talk with your estate planning attorney to see how this can work to strengthen the rest of your estate plan.

Reference: The Street (June 14, 2023) “4 Concepts You May Be Getting Wrong About Pour-Over Wills”

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