When Are Wills Made Public?

by Teo Spengler
The terms of your will become public when your will goes to probate.

The terms of your will become public when your will goes to probate.

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A will is a legal document that enables you to organize your affairs after your death. When you write a will, you set out instructions about how you want your property divided and your estate handled when you are deceased. Private documents when written, wills become public when they are filed in the probate court.

Making a Will

A will does not go into effect until the person making it dies, so it makes sense that it is private. As your life changes, you may amend or rewrite your will to reflect those changes. Nobody has a right to look at your will during your lifetime; you can choose who to show it to. It is generally a good idea to give a copy to your attorney or executor.

Passing Into Probate

When you die, your will passes into probate court. Often your executor files the document in probate, but other interested persons can also open the probate action. During the probate process, the executor gathers your assets, pays your debts and locates your beneficiaries before dividing the estate according to your directions. Once the document is filed in probate court, it can be viewed by members of the public.