As an estate planning and probate attorney in Plano, I get asked a lot when the “will reading” is, or what a “will reading” even is.

Here's the thing, will readings don’t really exist in real life. At least in Texas. Maybe it is a thing in Great Britain, but I sort of doubt it. Although Hollywood likes to put them in T.V. shows or in the movies, the reality is that people don’t gather around the table in their Sunday best with their estate planning or probate attorney as he reads their loved one’s will. You don’t get together to find out what you inherited and how your inheritance compares to everybody else’s, or find out publicly that you were disinherited to the great gasps to all assembled.

Don’t get me wrong, if your love one has explicitly told someone they would like for a “will reading” to happen, your family may or may not decide to honor their request and have one. But there is no legal requirement to have it.

So, how do you normally find out what you may or may not have inherited after a loved one passes away?

In Plano, when you see a probate attorney after your loved one dies, they will ask for a copy of the Will. In Texas, the Will will appoint an Executor, who is the person responsible for making sure the will is probated correctly. While there are two ways a will can go through probate, as an independent administration nor dependent administration, the far more common (and easier route) is an independent administration. The Will must specifically request that. Once the Probate Attorney has confirmed that, and determined that a full probate is the best option, the  attorney and the Executor will file an application to Probate the will. After the application has been filed, all beneficiaries that are named in the Will receive a copy of it. Then, the Independent Executor and the Probate attorney will have a hearing with a Judge of the Probate court to ensure the Will is valid. After the hearing, the judge orders the will to be probated. The Independent Executor, along with the Probate attorney, will make an inventory of all the loved one’s assets, which, in most cases, they will then submit to the court. Often, it is after the Independent Executor and the Probate attorney file the inventory that the Independent Executor distributes the portions of the estate to the beneficiaries as it is outlined in your loved one’s will. 

But what if your loved one has a trust?

Trusts are a lot more private than Wills, and the process is often smoother and quicker than the probate process (which can take months to complete). If you are a successor trustee, your loved one has most likely already informed you of your role before they passed away. The successor trustee, like an Independent Executor, is responsible for distributing portions of the loved one’s estate to the beneficiaries as outlined in the trust. Trusts are designed to avoid probate, so in most cases, the successor trustee will not have to go through the probate process in court with a probate attorney.

To learn more about estate administration, or how an estate is divvied up after a loved one dies, download our free book, Seven Steps to Handling your Loved One’s Estate, by clicking here.
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