By Allison Byrd

In our January issue of “The Passionate Estate Planner,” we addressed ten common myths about estate planning. A classic misconception perpetuated in the movies, and number two on our list, is how a Will is read:

The myth: My attorney will read my Will aloud in a musty, mahogany-paneled room, while my loved (or not-so-loved) ones are gathered ‘round in rapt anticipation.

The reality: It doesn’t work that way.

You’ve probably seen many movie scenes in which a deceased person’s family members are gathered at the office of the person’s attorney, eyeing each other suspiciously and waiting anxiously for the attorney to read the Will aloud and tell them if they are to receive anything. For a few amusing examples of this myth in film, take a look at these three movie clips:

Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein
(deleted scene)

While the reading of a Will in this manner makes for good dramatic action in a movie plot, it is rarely, if ever, what happens in real life. Assuming you’ve made a Will and that you have left instructions with your chosen Executor about where to find it, someone is going to be reading your Will after you are gone, but it won’t be with all your relatives present and your attorney doing the reading. Under Georgia law, all Wills are required to be filed with the probate court of the county in which the Will-maker (the “testator”) died. Depending on what type of property you have when you die, whether and how you owned it with anyone else, and how it is titled, the Executor of your Will may or may not have to go through a longer probate process to prove the validity of the Will and to obtain the authority needed to gather your assets, make sure all expenses and taxes are paid, and distribute the rest to the beneficiaries you designated in your Will. Anything filed with the probate court will be of public record and open to anyone to view, so, if this is a concern, you may want to consider having an estate plan that is based on one or more living Trusts, which typically provide more privacy than a Will-based plan.

To read more myths about estate planning, go to

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