Many people are familiar with the concept of the reading of the Will. This is the time when all of the family members gather together with the attorney present. The terms of the Will are then read aloud for everyone to hear all at once. Generally, the terms of the Will reveal the identity of the persons who are nominated to serve as the executor and the names of the beneficiaries who have been designated to receive the deceased family member’s property. As a practical matter, however, the reading of the Will simply does not occur as it once may have in the past. So how and when are the beneficiaries notified of their inheritance?
An executor will be named in the Will. The testator [the person that writes the Will] is encouraged to let the executor know that he or she has been named to carry out the terms of the Will upon the testator’s death. Accordingly, the executor will often already have a copy of the Will or will contact the attorney that drafted the Will in order to obtain a copy. Under Nevada law, the person in possession of the original Will must either turn the Will over to the executor, or lodge it with the Court within 30 days of the testator’s death. Once the will is filed with the Court, it becomes public record and can be seen by anyone. However, the law does not require that the lodged Will be sent out to the named beneficiaries under the Will.
Once the executor meets with the attorney, the determination will be made as to whether or not the Will needs to be admitted to probate. This will depend on what assets were owned by the testator, how such assets were titled and the value of the assets. Once it is determined that some sort of probate proceeding will be necessary, all interested persons must receive notice of the initial petition once it is filed with the Court. Interested persons consist of the named beneficiaries under the Will, as well as the intestate heirs. The intestate heirs are those persons who would take the testator’s property under law if the testator had not executed a Will. Oftentimes the beneficiaries and the intestate heirs may be one and the same.
The interested persons will receive a copy of the petition with the lodged Will attached as an exhibit. Any interested persons would then have the opportunity to contest the Will if there were reasons for doing so. In absence of such a Will contest, the Court will hold a hearing on the petition and the Will will thereafter be admitted to probate. There may be an administrative period where creditors are notified, the testator’s debts are settled, and taxes are prepared and paid. After the administrative period is concluded, the executor may start the process of winding down the probate administration and requesting distribution to the beneficiaries.