There are any number of movies or television shows which feature a scene in which the family members of a deceased relative assemble to hear a lawyer read the terms of the deceased person’s Will. Though these scenes make for great drama, they are almost completely fictional. The reality is that after a person dies the family will almost never assemble to hear the reading of the Will.
The exact origin of this myth is unknown, but it likely originates from the colonial era or earlier. During those times it was relatively difficult to make copies of documents and to send them to others through the mail. It was even more difficult to ensure that those who received any documents were able to read them because literacy rates were not as high as they are today.
Regardless of the origin of this popular myth, readings of the Will almost never happen. While some people make videotaped messages which their families can then view after the person dies, their families will never have to assemble in one place to hear a reading. While some people, such as the estate beneficiaries and personal representative, will receive a copy of the Will, anyone can read it at any time because wills become part of the public record once they are filed with the probate court. Any beneficiaries will be notified by the estate administrator of the gifts they stand to receive, but other than that there is no official reading.
However, it is possible that a person who makes a Will, known as a testator, may direct the estate representative to conduct such a reading, though these are entirely unnecessary.
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