3 minute read

Reading of the Will: What You Need to Know

When a loved one passes, you may have questions around the reading of a Will after death. When is a Will read? Who reads the Will? Read more to find out.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

The reading of the Will of a loved one who has passed may be difficult, and there’s often a lot of confusion around the process. When does it happen? Who is responsible for a Will’s reading? We’re answering all these questions and more here. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the reading of a Will

When is a Will Read?

Many people are surprised to learn that when it comes to a Will reading, things probably won’t go like they’re expecting. Perhaps most surprising is learning when a Will is actually read. Movies, television and the media often present Will reading one way, while the reality is quite different. So what is the answer to the question, “How long after a death is a will read?”

Unlike the movies, there is no formal gathering of friends and family named in the Will, where an Executor reads the document to all parties. Instead, the Will is submitted to the probate court upon the death of the individual. The court then appoints an Executor (someone typically identified in the Will). This is the person responsible for managing the estate settlement.

The Executor must notify all beneficiaries that the Will has been submitted to the probate court and that an Executor has been appointed. The Executor should either submit a copy of the Will with the notifications or specific instructions as to how each party can obtain a copy of the Will. This is the official notification that a beneficiary is mentioned in the Will and how they will likely discover what has been bequeathed to them.

How Long After Someone Dies Is There a Reading of the Will?

While the actual reading of a will after death is somewhat anticlimactic when compared to fictitious depictions, the Wills-reading process remains important. Unfortunately, the probate process involves more than simply obtaining a copy of the Will for the heirs. Probate can take an average of eight to twelve months for asset distribution to occur.

For those truly interested in the answer to the question: How long after a death is a Will read, beneficiaries must be notified within 60 days of an Executor being appointed. However, the probate process often lasts much longer, depending on the complexity of the estate, assets, claims against the estate, etc. All claims against the estate, for instance, must be settled, before assets can be distributed.

Who Reads the Will When Someone Dies?

Depending on the laws in your state, either the Executor of the Will or an heir is required to submit the Will to the probate court upon the death of the Grantor (the person who made the Will). Upon receipt of the Will, the court swings into gear and officially appoints the Executor, who can then begin his or her duties.

As noted, the Executor has 60 days to notify beneficiaries. This also requires either providing beneficiaries with a copy of the Will or notifying them of how they can obtain one. The individual beneficiaries can then read the Will themselves. Of course, assets listed in the Will can only be released once the probate process concludes and any claims against the estate are settled.

Ultimately, however, it’s the responsibility of the Executor to make sure the appropriate notifications are distributed and that everyone listed in the Will has access to the information the Will contains. 

Who Can Read a Will?

There are people who are legally entitled to view or read the Will after a death. That list includes the following individuals:

  • People who are named as beneficiaries in the Will.

  • People mentioned in the Will who are not beneficiaries.

  • Living heirs not named in the Will who would have had a claim to inherit property if there wasn’t a Will or if the Will is declared invalid.

  • Parents or guardians of minor children who are listed in the Will.

  • Creditors of the deceased.

  • Attorneys, Executors, Trustees and administrators who are involved in the probate process and administration of the Will.

These are the people who are entitled to read the Will. Anyone else is at the discretion of those who are entitled to read the Will.

Who Gets Invited to the Reading of the Will?

Unless a Will is “sealed,” it’s generally considered public records and available for anyone to read. However, only certain individuals are specifically “invited” to read a Will or have any rights to a copy of the Will in the beginning of the process.

Those invited individuals specifically include beneficiaries and parents or guardians of beneficiaries who are minor children. It also includes disinherited heirs who may wish to contest the Will. The time they have to do so begins as soon as they’re notified of the contents of the Will.

Create Your Will Today

Even small estates involve a great deal of complexity. The more assets you own, the greater the need is to have a proper estate plan so that the reading of the Will can identify beneficiaries of certain items of sentimental and actual value. Creating your Will sooner rather than later allows you plenty of time to make changes as needed. It also ensures that your loved ones know who should get what assets to avoid fighting among family members after your passing.

Are you ready to begin the estate planning process? Here at Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Browse more topics in our learn center or chat with a live member support representative!

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.