What's The Difference Between a Last Will And a Pour Over Will?

graphic of last will and pour over will documents

If you’re evaluating whether to make a last will or a revocable living trust for your estate plan, you likely have come across two different kinds of wills –– a “last will” and a “pour over will.”

The key difference between the two is that a traditional last will controls the distribution of gifts made upon a person’s death, whereas a pour over will simply “pours over” or funds untitled assets into a trust. That trust in turn manages most, if not all, of the gift distributions.

Outside of specifying gift distributions, the benefits of a last will and pour over will overlap significantly with one another.

Last Will vs. Pour Over Will Comparison
Last Will Pour Over Will
Contains provisions for gift distributions to beneficiaries (limited)
Designates guardians for minor children
Grants specific or general powers to executor
Establishes certain procedures and requirements for probate
Specifies disposition of remains and end-of-life ceremony preferences (optional) (optional)

Other differences between a last will and pour over will

Despite the similarities between a last will and pour over will, you may find that, independent of the provisions for gift distributions, a last will document is typically a lengthier document than a pour over will.

That difference in length owes to the common practice that attorneys and willmakers often specifically list the powers and authority of the executor in a last will, but may not necessarily do so in a pour over will. Assuming the corresponding trust document for a pour over will was properly funded during the person’s lifetime, the responsibilities and duties of the executor to a pour over will are relatively straightforward and limited. A blanket reference to state statute is often sufficient to empower the pour over will executor without the need to outline other conditions.

Should I make a last will or pour over will?

If you are creating a revocable living trust as part of your estate plan, as a general guideline you will want to also make a pour over will to fund the 'leftover' assets into the trust. One potential exception to this guideline is if you are anticipating that your estate may be contested, in which case it may make sense to forgo creating a pour over will so that there is a lower likelihood your trust instrument is exposed.

If you're not creating a revocable living trust or other trust instrument, a last will right for you and serves as the core component of your estate plan.

If you have questions about which estate plan is best for you –– a last will or a revocable living trust with a pour over will –– use the estate plan matching quiz to see our recommendation. You can also chat one with one of our customer success team members by clicking the pop-out chat icon on our website.