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Pennsylvania Probate Law: The Truth About “The Reading of the Will”

Initial Consultation with Estate Attorney

Time and again, on television shows and in movies, scenes occur in which a person has died and his or her last will and testament is “read” to family members. In considering these entertainments, one could easily include that the so-called reading of the will is a commonplace or even required occurrence. A person might think that Pennsylvania probate law requires a reading of a will. In fact, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the country, a reading of a will rarely takes place in the manner presented on television or in a movie.

Pennsylvania Probate Law and the Reading of a Will

There is no provision in Pennsylvania probate law requiring a will to be read aloud to family members of a person who died. There are isolated instances in which a reading of a will may actually occur in Pennsylvania. But, in the final analysis, and as previously mentioned, this is not something that frequently happens.

There is nothing that prohibits the reading of a will to family members. When it happens, it usually is in a Pennsylvania probate lawyer’s office.

Pennsylvania Probate Law and the Public Record

When a will is probated, that will becomes a public record. A probated will is one that is submitted to the court to allow a judge the ability to ensure that the provisions of that will are carried out – to ensure that the bequests and directives made by the writer of the will are carried out.

Because the will is public record, literally anyone can access the document and read it. Certainly, family members have the ability to read and review a will once it is submitted to the probate process in court. In some cases, a Pennsylvania probate lawyer will provide family members and others copies of a last will and testament.

Pennsylvania Probate Lawyer

A person involved in an estate matter, including one involving reviewing a last will and testament, is best served engaging the services of an experienced Pennsylvania probate lawyer. This type of attorney will schedule a no obligation, no cost initial consultation to discuss a particular legal mater.

If you have made the decision to either start the process of estate planning, or if you need to update your estate plan, an initial step in that process is to consult a qualified attorney. An estate attorney will schedule an initial consultation with you to discuss your estate planning needs, typically at no charge to you.

There are a number of factors to bear in mind when it comes to preparing for an initial consultation with an attorney. These include developing a list of questions for a lawyer, identifying your major assets or significant property, considering who you want your possessions to pass to upon your death and who you desire to oversee the distribution of your property.

Questions for an Estate Attorney

Prepare a list of specific questions you desire to ask an estate attorney during an initial consultation. By writing questions down, you will be less likely to forget raising a point that is important to you.

Itemizing Property

You do not need to inventory and itemize every piece of property you own in advance of an initial consultation with an estate attorney. (In reality, to estate planning purposes, you really never need to list each and every piece of property.)

Rather, in advance of a meeting with an estate attorney, prepare a list of property by category. This will allow you to have a more intelligent conversation with an estate lawyer about your particular circumstances, needs, goals and objectives.

Your Intended Heirs

Although you will not need a final list of who you want your property to go to upon your death, you should begin to at least assemble a preliminary list of these individuals. Having at least some idea of who you intend to benefit through a will or trust tends to be an important piece of information to share with an estate attorney during an initial consultation with that professional.

Selecting an Executor or Trustee

A key consideration to ponder before meeting with an estate attorney is who you desire to serve as the executor of your estate, if you intend to have a will drafted. In the alternative, if you think you will need some type of trust, based on your financial status and other considerations, you will need to make at least a tentative decision as to who you desire to serve as the trustee.

Oftentimes a person selects a trusted family member for one or another of these important roles. However, there are instances when a person elects an estate lawyer or some other third party fiduciary to serve in one of these capacities.