Depictions of “Reading of the Will” are an Anachronism


Modern day movies and television commercials (including a recent one by DirecTV) sometimes feature a lawyer reading the will of a deceased testator to his family.  Occasionally I even get questions about the ceremony.  However, it is the product of a bygone era, and as far as I am aware, never happens anymore.

I have been practicing for 23 years and have not once held a “reading of the will.” It was a necessity in the days before widespread literacy and the availability of photocopies, but now we can simply mail (or email) a copy of the will to the beneficiaries.  These days, for many decedents the will is not even the primary dispositive instrument – it’s a living trust.  One never hears about a “reading of the trust.”
So, while scenes of the stuffy old lawyer reading the will can be dramatic or comedic, they are certainly not an accurate representation of practice over the last few decades.
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