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How is last will and testament legally read?

Updated April 17, 2017

A will, a legal document declaring how a deceased person wants his assets allocated, is read by many people, ranging from executors to lawyers and possibly judges and, in the sense that it is sometimes open to legal interpretation, is legally read.

Hollywood Myth

In many TV shows and movies, after a person dies, the family gathers together in a wood-panelled lawyer's office filled with leather-bound legal books, and the will is read aloud.

In real life, this almost never happens. The lawyer or executor (the person handling the distribution of assets) will simply mail a copy of the will and a letter explaining what it means to the beneficiaries.

State Laws

Whether a will is read aloud by an attorney or judge has no consequence on its contents. That is to say, a will is not invalidated or nullified until or unless it is read, as many people believe. If the contents of the will are not contested by beneficiaries or family members, it remains simply a document that needs to be enforced and executed within the confines of the law, with no verbal announcements necessary.

Probate Hearings

Portions of a will may be read aloud by a judge or witness during a probate hearing if the contents of the will are questionable or challenged, but entering that part of the will into the record of the proceeding does nothing to further validate or invalidate the document. It is simply then part of the transcript of the proceeding, or sometimes presented as evidence.

Requested Readings

The person whose will it is, however, can request in the will that it be read aloud to the beneficiaries. This would most likely be stated in the will itself, and the process for doing so outlined in accordance with the deceased person's wishes.

Receiving a Will

Although receiving a copy of a will may not be as dramatic as an oral reading, it is still a serious matter, and any questions the beneficiary has should be answered through a consultation with a lawyer.

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About the Author

Christina Eichelkruat has a degree in mass communications, emphasis on print journalism. She has been a staff reporter for the "Pahrump Valley Times" for two years and a freelance writer for three. In addition to her published newspaper articles, she has ghostwritten two books and contributed to various governmental reports.