Can I see the Will ?

Written on November 16, 2011 – 7:30 am | by Paul Fensom

Ken Gallinger who writes an Ethical Column for the Star recently answered a Will & Estate planning question that is often not talked about. Here was the question;

Is it “ normal protocol” to ask the testator to see a copy of the Will prior to death when you know you have been appointed as an Executor ?

The legal answer is that there is no obligation for the testator to show a copy of the Will prior to death. However, the sensible answer is different. Because an Executor does not have to accept the appointment, it is usually wise for the testator to provide a copy of the Will or at a minimum an outline of the Estate plan to the proposed executor ahead of time. It is understood that Wills can be changed but it is worthwhile to discuss these matters with the proposed Executor to find out if they are willing and able to execute the Estate plan when required. For example, what if a parent has an estate plan in which the percentage of the estate assets going to each child is different and the child who is getting the most is the proposed executor. That child might find the situation uncomfortable and not wish to be the executor.  

The other point I would make is that, while again not obliged to do so, I would encourage testators to advise their respective family(s) about the Estate plan. At the Trust company we have come across numerous situations where this was not done because testator was uncomfortable talking about these matters with their family. However, these types of conversations ahead of time can prevent family feuds and expensive litigation.  Using the same example as above, perhaps the reason that the children receive different percentages of the estate assets is because the parent had given different amoutns of advances to their children.  If the parent/testator were to advise their children/beneficiaries ahead of time then potential conflict could be avoided.

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