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The Reading of the Last Will

The Fallacy of the “Reading of the Last Will”

In films and television, Hollywood portrays a group of family members sitting in an austere, legal office listening to the attorney giving the official “reading of the Will.”

But this is purely fictional.  In Illinois and most States, there is no such official, legal meeting for “the reading of the Will.” The reading of the Will may have been common long ago when many were illiterate and couldn’t read the Will for themselves.

In Illinois, it is the estate attorney’s job to work with the executor advising him or her as to how to administer the estate and fulfill the requirements of the Will, the Court, and Illinois law. The estate attorney and executor work together to notify parties who have legal interests, notify creditors of their rights to file a claim against the estate, and to collect and distribute the assets.  

Last Wills are Public Record

In Illinois, the person in possession of a Last Will of a decedent must, within 30 days from the decedent’s date of death, file the Will with the County in which the decedent died.  This is why many people will create a living trust - because unlike a Will, a living trust is a private document which is not required to be filed on public record.  Once a decedent’s last Will is filed with the County, it becomes public record and is open to be viewed by anyone.

How are Beneficiaries Notified? 

Today, rather than reading the last will aloud to the beneficiaries of the Will, instead they are notified in writing of their legal rights by the estate attorney and executor.  If the beneficiary’s contact information is unknown, then the estate attorney and executor will publish in a certain newspaper the attorney’s contact information for those heirs or beneficiairies entitled to notice.