How Soon After a Death Is a Will Read?

Copp's Hill Burial Ground image by Charlie Rosenberg from

A will is a legal document written by a person before his death outlining the wishes of how to distribute property and assets. How quickly a will is read is depends on how quickly it is found and the family's wishes.

After a Family Member Dies

The family of the decedent usually has an idea of who the executor of the estate is. Many families discuss this before putting it in writing in a will. In cases where the executor is unknown, locating the will is important in determining this fact. The will should be located before the estate can be probated. Possible locations include a fire box or safe in the decedent's home, a safe deposit box or with an attorney.

Reading the Will

Once located, the will should be read to immediate family members. While there is no time period requirement for this, many families wish to start probate proceedings shortly after death because in some cases, the process can take years if the decedent had a lot of property and assets. The reading can be in private with the executor acting as speaker, or in the presence of an attorney. The will is a legal document and will be submitted to the probate court to prove its validity. Once proven, the will is available to other beneficiaries listed in the paperwork, through the probate court.

Next Steps

After reading the will and having it proven in a probate court, the court will appoint an administrator for the estate who will begin contacting listed beneficiaries and family members. Many will have to appear in court to provide testimony proving they are a beneficiary. The court also requires information to be published in a newspaper to inform creditors of the death so they may bring suit and be repaid. After payment of the debts and providing for the beneficiaries, a final accounting will be brought forth and when approved the court closes the probate case.

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