Most of us have seen a movie where a Last Will and Testament is being read by an attorney to many of the main characters in the movie. While this type of scene may work great for creating drama or tension in a movie, it doesn’t really occur in real life. In fact, the attorney for the estate must generally decide who is entitled to receive a copy of the Will so they can read it for themselves.
The Personal Representative and beneficiaries named in the Will should each get a copy of the Will. These individuals will normally work with the estate attorney to get questions answered and determine who else should have a copy of the Will. It may be necessary for an accountant to read the Will and determine what it provides regarding the payment of claims and estate income taxes.
If there are parties (such as disinherited heirs) seeking to challenge the validity of the Will, the attorney for the estate will generally provide a copy of the Will to such parties. If the contest is based on which will is the current Will, hopefully full disclosure will resolve the issue. Otherwise, your attorney will want to limit their time frame for filing a will contest.
Of course, once a Last Will and Testament has been admitted to probate, it becomes a public record for anyone to see and read. There are some circumstances under which the beneficiaries of the Will can ask the probate judge to seal the court records to prevent the public from reading the Will and other probate documents. Typically, the judge will grant this request only in rare situations.
If you need assistance with an estate planning or probate matter, contact the offices of Maura Curran.