Who Gets Copies of the Will After a Person Dies?

Many movies and television shows feature a scene where family members gather after a relative has died to listen to the reading of the will. While this makes for a dramatic scene, it is one that may have been more common when literacy rates were lower.

Posted on January 5, 2024

In the modern world, it doesn't usually happen this way; there’s no requirement to read a last will and testament out loud to anyone. So, what happens with a will nowadays when someone passes away?

The Will Goes to the Estate Attorney and Executor

Once you have located the will of your loved one, give it to the estate's attorney. The estate’s attorney then sends copies of the will to anyone who may have an interest in it.

The person who is serving as executor or personal representative should receive a copy of the will. That individual is in charge of applying for probate. They also must manage the decedent's property and make sure to carry out the instructions in the will. (Learn more about what the duties of an executor include.)

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      The Beneficiaries Get a Copy of the Will

      The estate attorney also sends a copy of the will to anyone named as a beneficiary. If this list includes any minor children or incapacitated individuals, then their guardians should receive a copy of the will.

      In some states, anyone who would have inherited if there was no will is entitled to a copy of the will. Even if it isn't required by law, if there is the possibility of someone legally challenging the will, the attorney may want to send a copy to any legal heirs, close family relatives, or previous beneficiaries who aren't included in the will, so that they have notice. This will limit the time frame for them to file a will contest.

      Where an Estate Accountant, the IRS, or Successor Trustee May Fit In

      Another person who may be entitled to a copy of the will is the estate's accountant, and if the estate is taxable, then the IRS may get a copy of the will as well.

      If the will funds a revocable trust, then the successor trustee of the trust is entitled to a copy of the will. Note that once a will is probated, it is available to the public and anyone can read it.

      Stay updated on how to protect everything you’ve worked for so hard during your life.

        Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney

        If you have questions about a loved one’s will, consider connecting with an estate planner near you.

        If you haven’t yet drafted a will or estate plan of your own, estate planning attorneys are excellent resources. They are experts on the legal documents you need for outlining who receives your assets after you pass away. They can also assist you in planning for the unexpected. For instance, you can appoint someone to handle your affairs on your behalf if you ever become impaired for some reason.

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