The Process of Probate in Alabama – The How, When, and Where
Estate administration is a process with its own set of rules and specialized language. It can be a daunting process for someone not familiar with its inner-workings. The first step in an estate administration is appointing a personal representative. This is a fiduciary who collects and inventories the property of the deceased (called the “decedent”), manages and protects this property during the administration, handles the claims of creditors and tax collectors, and distributes the property to whom it is entitled The court that supervises this distribution of property is called the probate court. If the will names a personal representative, this is the executor. If the will fails to do so, or there is no will, then the court will name an administrator. A person who is named as administrator must give bond, but often a will waives the bond requirement for the executor it names.
To open probate, an attorney will seek letters of administration in the jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled (lived and intended to remain indefinitely) at death. Letters of administration essentially ask the court to appoint an administrator, or recognize the executor that was appointed in the will. The jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled at death becomes the primary jurisdiction. If the decedent owned real property (land) in another jurisdiction, ancillary jurisdiction is required.
The person requesting letters of administration can choose either formal or informal probate. Formal probate (also called notice probate) requires notice be given to all interested parties. Formal proceedings are supervised by the court, and become final judgments if not appealed within certain time limits. Informal probate (also called ex parte probate) requires no notice, and the personal representative can administer the estate without having to go back to court. Informal probate is the norm, since the representative is often trusted family.
The estate cannot be closed before certain conditions have been met. The personal representative is expected to complete administration and distribute the assets as quickly as is reasonable. All creditors must be paid, titles cleared, taxes paid, tax returns audited and accepted, and real estate or sole proprietorships liquidated. Judicial approval is required to relieve the representative from liability.
As you can see, the process can get complicated for someone who is unfamiliar with how it works. The probate attorneys of Parkman White, LLP have years of experience in estate administration, and can ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. If you have estate administration needs in Dothan, Geneva, Columbia, Cottonwood, Rehobeth, Daleville, or anywhere else in the Houston County area, please email us or give us a call at 334-792-1900 today for a meeting with our Dothan legal team and let us assist you.