As specialist probate lawyers, the team at Solomons Solicitors appreciate that relationships between stepparents and children in blended families can be complicated. Sibling rivalry is normal, but it can be more intense between half and step-siblings. Family tensions can come to a head when a loved one passes away, so it is relatively common for Will solicitors to be asked by executors and family, ‘who has the right to read the Will?’
At Solomons Solicitors, we can help answer all your Will and probate questions. Contact our team today to find out how we can help you.
Who can read a Will?
The answer to ‘who can read a Will?’ comes down to timing. The timings can be broken down to:
- Whilst the Will maker is alive.
- After the Will maker has passed away, but before probate.
- After the grant of probate.
Reading a Will while the Will writer is alive
It is a matter of personal choice whether relatives or friends are permitted to read a Will. If you receive an assurance of being left something in the Will, there is no guarantee that the Will writer won't make a new Will. Alternatively, the value of their estate may have been reduced by the date of death, resulting in a residual legacy gift amounting to less than expected.
Reading a Will before probate
The executors of the Will have the right to read the Will before probate as the executors are the people nominated in a Will to administer the deceased’s estate. Probate is normally necessary unless the estate is very modest.
If a relative or friend of the deceased asks the probate solicitor if they can see the Will before probate is granted, the lawyer will not be able to provide a copy without the agreement of the executors. A solicitor may recommend disclosure to avoid feelings of ill will or to help the family mediate a potential challenge to the Will by a family member who does not believe the deceased made reasonable financial provision for them in the Will or if they have questions about whether the Will maker had the capacity to make a new Will when they signed it.
Reading a Will after probate
A Will becomes a public document once the executors have secured the grant of probate. Therefore, if the executors are not willing to provide a copy direct, anyone interested in reading the Will can apply online for a copy. They do not need the permission of the executors.
Keeping family matters private
When there are complex family dynamics, an estate planning priority may be to keep matters private and amicable. Will solicitors can explore the best options to achieve those goals, including:
Choice of the executor in the Will
The appointment of a probate solicitor or old friend of the family may create more trust than appointing two family members from a blended family. If there is trust in the process, this can reduce the risk of the Will being challenged by a beneficiary or a family member who has been excluded from the Will.
Use of a discretionary trust
A trust can be created during your life or when you make a Will. A discretionary trust gives the trustees the power to distribute trust funds in accordance with the trust deed and letter of wishes. These are private documents and are only rarely the subject of disclosure orders. A trust deed is normally accompanied by a letter of wishes giving detailed guidance on how the trustees should exercise their discretion or an explanation for the testator’s wishes regarding the distribution of their estate.