How to Get the Process Started in Alabama
Once a person who made a will (called a “testator”) dies, the will must be probated in order to clear title, distribute assets, and close the estate. In order for this to occur, the personal representative (usually appointed in the will) must appear before the court in the jurisdiction where the testator lived (was “domiciled”) at death and request letters of administration or letters testamentary. This personal representative is called the “executor,” and may then begin the process of collecting and taking inventory all the testator’s assets. The executor may decide whether the proceeding will be formal or informal. In a formal probate, notice has to be given to all interested parties, and the court supervises the entire proceeding. In an informal probate, the executor can simply obtain the letter of administration and swear to administer the estate properly, and then will not have to go back to the courthouse. The decision between formal and informal probate is often controlled by the will itself.
If the will is ambiguous due to careless drafting or other circumstances, then the court is called upon to interpret the terms of the will. The main principle of will interpretation is that courts should try and give effect to the intent of the testator. In other words, the courts should try to figure out what the testator would have wanted or what the testator was trying to express. Sometimes the courts get it right, sometimes it’s a near miss, and sometimes it may end up being the exact opposite of what the testator would have wanted. This is why it is critical to make sure you select a professional, experienced probate attorney to draft your will.
After the assets have been distributed, all the bills and taxes of the estate have been paid, and the court has approved of the process, the executor is released from liability and the probate is deemed “closed.”
If you need help probating a will or if you are the beneficiary of a will and are facing a potential will contest, call the Dothan probate attorneys of Parkman White, LLP today at 334-792-1900, or email us for a consultation. Whether the Last Will & Testament needs to be probated in Houston County, Dale County, Pike County or any other county in Southeast Alabama, our expert probate attorneys can help you.