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What happens at a reading of wills?

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Quick Answer

A modern estate attorney does not gather people that a will names together to read it to them as a group, reports About.com. Instead, the estate attorney responsible for a will sends copies of the will to the named executor, beneficiaries and other people and organizations financially affected so that they can read it for themselves. Once a will goes to probate court, it is a matter of public record, and anyone can read it.

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Full Answer

State law varies concerning the specific people to whom an estate attorney must send a will when the person who writes a will, known as a testator or testatrix, dies, explains About.com. The executor, who acts as the testator's personal representative in settling the estate and carrying out the will's instructions, must receive a copy. Beneficiaries who receive assets also receive copies, although if beneficiaries are minors, the copies go to their guardians. The accountant for the estate receives a copy so that he can follow instructions concerning outstanding debts, taxes and other financial considerations. If the testator owes state or federal taxes, the attorney must send copies of the will to the appropriate tax authorities.

Although an estate attorney is not obliged to send copies of the will to disinherited beneficiaries, he often does so anyway to limit the amount of time that disinherited people can contest the will, according to About.com. Once those directly involved with the will receive copies, it goes through a legal process called probate, notes Nolo. During probate, the executor and court verify the will's validity, inventory and appraise property, pay debts and distribute the balance of assets.

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