Drawing up a will is essential if you have assets to be distributed among your heirs at your death. Without a will, the distribution of assets is controlled by the state probate court and the decision of a judge. This can lead to expensive and time-consuming legal wrangling. There are certain conditions that are required for legal wills, although a public reading of the will is not among them.
In Utah, as in all other states, there is no requirement for a public reading of a will upon the death of the testator. Although it is no longer practiced, the reading of wills did take place in earlier times, when copying legal documents was an expensive process and widespread illiteracy made public readings necessary.
Instead of reading the will to heirs and other interested parties, attorneys, executors and personal representatives who have the will in their custody now customarily copy and distribute the will through the mail on the death of the testator. This action is done to avoid a lengthy probate process, in which heirs may fail to come forward or challenge the will on the grounds that they never received a copy of it.
Application to the Court
The executor of the will submits the document to the proper court, where it is admitted and recorded by a clerk. At this point, the will becomes a public document, and any interested party can apply to the clerk for a copy of the will, or to examine the document at the clerk's office. The executor applies for probate of the will, and for letters testamentary, which is a document issued by the court certifying the identity of the legal executor.
All assets that are not community property or held in trust are subject to probate proceedings. The probate court oversees the work of the executor, who pays valid debts and claims on the estate, then distributes the remaining property according to the terms of the will. If there are any disputes among the heirs over these payments and distributions, or any contest of the validity of the will, the probate court will render a binding decision on the matter.