After I pass away, will there be a formal reading of my will?
In Arizona, the answer is no, there will not be a formal reading of your will. In most cases, a will is admitted to probate through what’s called an informal probate proceeding. The will is submitted to the clerk of the court with an application for informal probate and other papers required by the Arizona probate code. If the will meets the requirements for informal probate, the application contains all the necessary information, and the other required papers are complete, the probate registrar (a deputy clerk) issues a statement that the will has been admitted to probate. There’s no court hearing, and no reading of the will.
Even if your will is admitted to probate through the process that does require a court hearing, known as a formal testacy proceeding, there’s still no formal reading of the will. The word “formal” in “formal testacy” refers to the court proceedings. The rules for those proceedings don’t require a formal reading of the will, although they do require that the superior court determine whether or not the will is valid.
Who gets a copy of the will?
The answer is, it depends. If a will is admitted to probate through an informal probate proceeding, copies of the will and a notice of informal probate are sent to all of beneficiaries named in the will (the “devisees”) and all of the family members of the deceased person who would have been in line to inherit the estate if there had been no will (the “heirs”). That doesn’t mean that no one else can see the will, however. If you really want to know what the will says, and you are willing to make a trip to the courthouse, you (and anyone else who wants to) can look in the clerk’s file and see the will.
If a will is never admitted to probate, on the other hand, then no one automatically has a right to see the will. In some situations, wills are never admitted to probate because there is no need for it. The topic of when a probate is necessary and when it is not is too big for this FAQ session. But read on for a discussion of a related question.
After I pass away, who gets possession of my will?
A person who has possession of the will of a deceased person is required, upon request, to deliver the will to “a person able to secure its probate or, if none is known, to an appropriate court,” in the words of the probate code. And who, you might ask, is “a person able to secure… probate?” That would be one of the people who are listed in the code as having the ability to file the application for informal probate that I discussed earlier in this FAQ session: a surviving spouse, an adult child, certain other relatives, or a person nominated in the will to serve as personal representative, among others.
If it’s a situation where a probate may not be necessary, I think the rule that a will must be delivered to someone able to secure its probate applies anyway. So if you are one of the people “able to secure… probate” of the will, you should be able to get it from whoever has it, as long as you get it for the purpose of submitting it for probate.
Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions. He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,
Contact Attorney Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org or 520/ 322-5000
This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.