Can you just show a will to the holder of the assets and take possession? No, you need to head to court.
There are numerous misperceptions about how a will works. Attorneys often deal with people upset that it requires approval from a court before it is official, according to The Times Herald 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.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and a trust may be the route to go.
Reference: The Times Herald (Sep. 22, 2017) "Wills won't work without probate."