Undoubtedly you’ve all seen it, an attorney gathers the family members of the recently deceased together and reads aloud the terms of the last will and testament, often with dramatic results. Scenes like this are so well known that many people take for granted that these “reading of the will ceremonies” are the first step in the estate distribution process. We’re here to bust that myth, they make for great scenes in movies, but in real life they just don’t happen. Here’s why…
Wills and Probate
A will becomes part of the probate process after the testator (the person who made it) dies and someone submits the will to a probate court. The court has the responsibility of determining if the document meets state legal standards. If the will is properly made, the court will accept it as a valid expression of the decedent’s last wishes and authorize the personal representative of the estate to follow the terms of the will in distributing estate property to the beneficiaries.
The probate process is part of a public record, it is open to public inspection. Anyone who wishes can go to a local courthouse and look at the probate court’s records, including the terms of the will.
The personal representative, also called executor or administrator, has a responsibility to notify interested parties about the probate. This includes publishing notice and distributing copies of the will.
Reading of the Will
A reading of the will is not a part of the modern probate process. States do not require a reading of the will ceremony and they just do not happen today. We encourage families to talk with one and other throughout the estate planning process. Making your family aware of your wishes while you are alive is often the best way to keep them informed and avoid confusion and conflict once you’re gone. If you’re uncomfortable doing this in person, you can leave a letter of instruction for your executor who can explain your choices after you are gone.
About Oakstone Law, PL
Oakstone Law PL was founded by Bob Kleinknecht. A member of the Florida Family Trust Company Subcommittee, the Estate Tax & Trust Planning (ETTP) Committee and the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law (RPPTL) Section of the Florida Bar, Kleinknecht has 15 years’ experience.
Prior to founding Oakstone law, he spent more than eight years serving as a personal, in-house estate, tax and charitable planning attorney for a Forbes 400 family in New York and Florida. Before that he was an estate planning and estate settlement attorney with prominent firms in Boston and Washington, D.C. after beginning his career with a boutique firm in Naples, Florida.
Licensed in Florida and Massachusetts, Kleinknecht has developed a practice model that eliminates billing by the hour and offers a streamlined, customized client process supported by technology, security and a personal approach.
For more information on Oakstone Law, click here. To get in touch with us, click here to send us an email, or call 239-206-3454. Our office is located at 5137 Castello Drive, Suite 2 in Naples, Florida 34103.