Author: Amy Shue Isaacs, Probate Attorney, The McIntosh Law Firm, P.C.
As a probate attorney, I am frequently asked when and where the Reading of the Will takes place. I love the visuals this conjures up! Spoiled adult children, perched on the edge of their fancy leather seats in the attorney’s lavishly appointed conference room, salivating about what they might receive.
This scene has never unfolded in my office, although I was once invited to join a family for fried chicken and deviled eggs in the church fellowship hall after their loved one’s funeral to perform the Reading of the Will. As much as I wanted that fried chicken, I had to inform them that the Reading of the Will is something that largely exists only in movies and legal thriller novels.
In reality, the reading of the will happens when the will is found. Ideally, a person should leave their original will in a safe place where it can be found (preferably by the person named as Executor) when the time comes. It is important that they be able to locate the original, as photocopies can only be probated in extremely limited circumstances. Once the will has been found, the person named as Executor should then submit it to the court for probate, along with the other documents required to be formally appointed as Executor, enlisting the help of a trusted probate attorney if necessary.
Once the will is offered for probate, the clerk of court will review it to ensure that it is an original and complies with all other requirements for a valid will (i.e., witnessed, notarized, etc.). Once the will is probated, the Executor should consider sending copies to the beneficiaries, in the interest of good, open communication and keeping them well informed.