As an estate administration attorney, I often get asked, “When are we going to read the will?” In Minnesota, our probate code does not have any chapter or rule about will readings. Will readings make for good drama in TV, movies, or an Agatha Christie novel, but are not required in the state of Minnesota. This practice was a holdover from times when many people were not literate and could not read the document themselves, so it was necessary to read the document aloud to them.
So how do you know if there is a will and what is says these days? In Minnesota, next of kin must receive notice of probate proceedings if the probate assets include real estate or are valued at more than $50,000.00. The will must be filed with a county court to begin the probate process in Minnesota, so concerned family members can go to the courthouse and request a copy.
Wills decide what happens and who controls property that doesn't automatically transfer to other people like life insurance or jointly owned property. The probate process transfers those stranded assets to the new owners. A will allows you to choose who gets that stuff and who will manage that process as your Personal Representative (this person used to be called your “executor.”)
And if you’re still looking for a good will reading, check out the one at the end of Mrs. Christie’s “Peril at End House,” one of my favorites.