How wills actually work, is not understood by everyone.
Many people think that if something is written down in a will, then everything is settled. They think all that is required is for the beneficiary to show the will to whoever is holding the property the beneficiary is to inherit.
That is not the way it works at all.
Unfortunately, the misperception is common.
In fact, estate attorneys are used to hearing this from people named in wills, who think it all works that way and are upset when they discover that it does not.
The Times Herald recently discussed this in "Wills won't work without probate."
A will is only a bunch of words on paper that have no real legal authority, until the will is filed with a probate court.
The court must then agree to accept the will as representing the valid wishes of the deceased.
Once that is done, the probate court appoints a personal representative for the estate.
That personal representative is then charged with carrying out the directives in the will, under the supervision of the court.
This can result in a long and often expensive process.
It depends on the size of the estate, the ability of the personal representative and whether there are any challenges to the estate.
Of course, this can all usually be avoided by speaking to an estate planning attorney about getting a trust instead of a will.
Reference: The Times Herald (Sep. 22, 2017) "Wills won't work without probate."