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Making Sense Out of Dollars

Will It?

Joel Lerner, Columnist
Posted 3/12/21

Part 10 of 12

When Does the Reading of the Will Happen?

While you have probably watched in the movies or read in a book about “the reading of the will,” this is a purely fictional …

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Making Sense Out of Dollars

Will It?

Posted

Part 10 of 12

When Does the Reading of the Will Happen?

While you have probably watched in the movies or read in a book about “the reading of the will,” this is a purely fictional scenario because in reality this simply does not happen today. Apparently, years ago estate attorneys were in the habit of gathering the family in their office to read the will aloud because many people were not literate and therefore could not read the will on their own. Today, however, I am not aware of any state that requires that a will be read aloud to anyone.

Who is Supposed to Receive a Copy of the Will?

Instead of gathering the family to read the will out loud, it is the job of the estate attorney to determine who is entitled to receive a copy of the will and then send it to them so that they can read it for themselves. The most obvious people that come to mind who need to receive a copy of the will after the testator or testatrix dies are the executor and beneficiaries named in the will - of course, they are entitled to receive a copy of the will since they are named in it.

In addition to the beneficiaries and the executor named in the will the accountant for the estate will need to receive a copy so that he or she can read and understand what the will provides with regard to the payment of claims filed against the estate (such as credit card bills) as well as the payment of any estate taxes that may be due as well as income taxes.

Is a Disinherited Person Entitled to See the Will?

The estate attorney must also be aware that a disinherited heir at law or a disinherited beneficiary named in a prior will may seek to challenge the validity of the current will. If the beneficiaries or executor named in the current will are concerned that a disinherited person will file a will contest, then the estate attorney can opt to send a copy of the current will to the disinherited heirs at law or to the disinherited beneficiaries named in the prior will in order to limit the time frame in which a will contest can be filed.

Remember: Wills Are Public Record

Regardless of who is entitled to receive a copy of a will under applicable state law, once a will is admitted to probate it will become a public court record for anyone to see and read. Thus, once a will is admitted to probate, anyone can go to the appropriate courthouse and ask to see the will (note that in this case the person will be able to read the original will) or write a letter to the probate court and request to receive a copy of the will by mail or fax after paying a small fee.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last because it might be.

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