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Everyone has seen the movie or television show when the family gathers for the reading of the will.  It is usually a dramatic event with an unexpected twist that makes for a good movie plot.  Is there actually any requirement to have the family meet for a “reading of the will?” If not, how do people find out what is in the will?

As you might imagine, most wills do not have a dramatic twist; and there is no need to gather everyone together to read the will unless that was the specific request of the deceased. I do have a client or two who have left instructions for the family to meet in my office while I read the will to the family.

In most cases, this process is unnecessary. Those who may receive something under the will are entitled to know what it provides. But there is no specific way this must happen. 

So, what is the process after someone passes? This question took on new meaning for me when one distraught client called me within 15 minutes of a loved one passing.  It was unfortunate that, in the midst of such grief, this person felt the need to worry about legal technicalities.  I quickly responded that the focus at that tender time should be on what matters most, and we could take care of the legal issues afterward.

Your preparations before passing are as important as what happens after.  At your passing, the law will make many decisions for you if you have not addressed them with a will or trust.  Those decisions include who will receive your estate and in what amounts.  The law also requires that your beneficiaries be notified of their inheritance.  However, how they are notified is typically far less important than ensuring the beneficiaries are who you want them to be.