You may have seen a movie or TV show once or twice that has portrayed court cases, interrogations, and my personal favorite, will readings! It usually goes like this: The family is gathered around the deceased patriarch's mansion library or attorney's office; the walls are paneled with dark wood, and everyone is dressed extravagantly (except for that one eccentric son wearing jeans and a t-shirt and trying to put his feet up on the table).You'll then see a lawyer dressed in a 3-piece suit walk in with his brief case, sit behind the large wooden desk, pull out a file, and say, with some authority, "We will now read the will," which will later be followed up with the family fighting or being completely shocked that grandpa left his fortune to the nurse that was taking care of him.
So, you may ask yourself, how is the reading of the will done? The answer to that question is a simple one: It isn't! Will readings are for movies and TV shows to help create drama and tension among the family. Unless, of course, you decide you want to do a reading yourself, but it's rather boring and most of the will does not discuss who gets what. A majority of the will discusses how the estate can be administered in an efficient manner, what the executor can do, and whether they have to file certain documents with the court.
Since there is no reading of the will, you are probably now wondering what happens with the will after someone dies. After the decedent passes, their executor (named in the will) files the will with the probate court in the county where the decedent died. After that is filed, a notice is given to the beneficiaries named in the will, as well as any legal heirs that are not named in the will. Assuming there are no contests as to the choice of executor or validity of the will, the will is then admitted, the executor is appointed and given authority to marshal together the assets, pay off the decedent's debts, and then distribute the assets in accordance with the will. This entire process typically takes at least 6 months and is not nearly as exciting as a typical family feud you might see in a movie after the reading of a will.
It is possible for a family to hold their own reading of a will, but I think that is very unlikely to happen. Regardless of whether a family decides to do that or not, the will would still need to be submitted to the probate court, and the probate process would then begin. To get an overview of what the probate process is like, we recommend taking a look at our probate page. If you need help with a probate matter, or help with your own estate planning, give us a call at (678) 344-5342 or contact us here.