Is there such a thing as ‘the reading of a will’……?
Who has access to the will of a deceased is of course of some legal and practical significance. Here, we look at how this happens in practice. And when, where, or moreover whether there is a formal ‘reading of the will’ (as many believe there is).
Who can Read the Will?
Once passed, the details of a testator’s will is confidential and for the executors only (in a strict sense). The simple answer is that the executors can read the will immediately after death. However, good practice is deemed to see executors share the information with others. And, the confidential nature of the will ends once probate is granted as the will becomes a ‘public document’.
How do the Executors get the original Will?
If it was a family member (eg parent) it may well be held at the home of the (now) deceased parent and so if the appointed executors are the children of the testator, they will likely have direct access to the original will.
If the will is being held somewhere (eg a solicitor’s practice) the executors will be required to produce a copy of the death certificate, and ID. They may also be asked to provide a written instruction alongside providing their ID and the death certificate.
What happens at the Reading of a Will?
Here’s the bombshell…! There is actually NO such thing as a formal ‘reading of the will’ (where folks sit around and learn the content of the will) – that’s the stuff of movies! It falls to the executors of the will to share what information they think fit, but no formal reading takes place. These days, most beneficiaries will get formal confirmation of their entitlement by email (perhaps after an initial telephone conversation).
Who can see a Will when someone dies?
Until the grant of probate is issued, the will is a private document and for the eyes of the executor(s) alone. Once the grant of probate is issued, the will is a public document and anyone can then obtain a copy if they wish – even if they have no connection with the deceased.
The practical reality however is that families (in particular) will often know what the will sets out, and will equally have very often have been given a copy by the testator (now deceased) when they made the will.
When should beneficiaries of a Will be notified?
Despite the fact that there is no obligation on the executor(s) to notify beneficiaries, it is considered good practice for executors to notify the beneficiaries of the residuary estate that the testator has died, what their entitlement is, and of course confirming that they will be dealing with the estate.
It is also good practice to provide an estimate when they anticipate certain things happening – like applying for probate, releasing cash, and of course then releasing money to the residuary beneficiaries.
In addition to notifying the residuary beneficiaries, the executors would also be expected to notify those set to receive a fixed cash legacy.
What else do Executors do around this time?
The executors have responsibility for the body of the deceased, and so are first in line to register thee death, and organise the funeral. Where the testator has appointed professional executors, but there are family members around, both the registration of the death, and arranging the funeral will likely be dealt with by the family in conjunction with the solicitors.
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We hope you’ve found this and our many other guides on wills and probate helpful. Do please remember that they (and any comments left) are not intended to be legal advice specific to you. If you would like our help – do reach out! Our expert solicitors are here to help. You can leave a comment, email, or call us.