The Reading of the Will: Maybe in Movies, But Not in Florida
Television and movies have led us to believe that after someone dies, everyone who is mentioned in the testator’s will is asked to gather around as an attorney officially reads the content of the will. Surprising every heir at the same time can make for a great plot device on a soap opera, but it is generally not what happens in the reality of the Florida probate process.
When a person passes away in Florida, someone must take on the duty of acting as the will’s executor, also known as the personal representative of the estate. Once the executor has been appointed by the court, this person is responsible for contacting everyone named in the will to let them know about their inheritance.
This process is typically completed over the phone, through the mail, or even by fax and email. In some cases, those who are named in the will are required to be given a copy of the will to read for themselves, but it is common practice to send a copy to both everyone named in the will and anyone who has been disinherited.
Of course, there is nothing stopping the executor from gathering everyone in a room to for a reading, but no one is required to come, and the executor is required to inform them of their inheritance either way.
Another reason that a reading of a will is unlikely is that the contents of a will are not secret. In fact, a will must be submitted to a Florida court soon after the testator’s death. Once a court has received the will, anybody can pay to receive a copy. Only in highly sensitive cases will a judge approve a request to seal the court records.
For help understanding the probate process, speak with a knowledgeable Florida probate attorney at the Charles Law Offices.