What is a Will Reading?
A Will reading is actually a fictional concept devised by writers in books and movies to give dramatic effect to what happens after the momentous death of a character and to set the scene for the carnage that will follow when inevitably someone is unhappy with the provisions contained in the will
There is legally no required that a will must be read to the executors and intended beneficiaries.
Is there a Will?
The first important thing to ascertain is whether there is in fact a will. If a will has been prepared by a solicitor then the original or a copy will be retained by them.
You can also check the National Will database to see if this has been registered although it is unfortunately not compulsory to do so.
It is advisable for the will maker to inform and provide a copy to any appointed executors.
Who is entitled to see the Will?
An executor is a person appointed by the will maker to administer their estate following their death, do they are the ones entitled to ‘read’ the will.
However, if required, once a Grant of Probate has been obtained, the will becomes a public document and anyone can request a copy from the Probate Registry on payment of a fee.
Whether a Grant of Probate is required or not will depend on the size of the estate and how assets in the estate are held (jointly or in trust outside the estate).
Prior to the Grant of Probate, a beneficiary (or potential excluded beneficiary) could make a request for a copy of the will as part of a Lark v Nugus request.
We discuss the use of Lark v Nugus requests in our blog here.
What needs to be done with a Will?
An executor will have fiduciary duties to administer the estate properly and that includes informing the relevant beneficiaries of any entitlement under the will
They will need to collect in the estate assets and pay any liabilities and inheritance tax before making distribution to the beneficiaries
Sometimes a will provides for trusts to be set up to administer estate assets and the executor is normally also appointed the trustee of those funds – for example if there are minor children to cater for
If an executor is no longer able to perform their duties then they may wish to renounce their role although this can only happen if there has been no intermeddling of the estate. Alternative, power can be reserved to an executor (and if there is more than one) who does not wish to actively assert their right or take part in the administration of the estate.
What if you don’t agree with the Will?
A will can be challenged for specific reasons including:
- Incorrectly drafted or executed/witnessed
- Undue Influence
- Lack of mental capacity
- Forgery and fraud
If inadequate or no provision has been made in a will, a person in a specified class category of claimants, could also bring an inheritance act claim against the estate.
If in doubt please seek appropriate legal advice at the earliest opportunity as there may be relevant deadlines to bring any such claims.
Making a Will
We cannot emphasis enough the importance of making a proper will through a solicitor to avoid the dramas which can ensue and are the material movies are made of when families get torn apart by costly and lengthy litigation fighting over estates.
The best thing you can do for a loved one is to ensure they are protected and provided for especially after your demise.