Dorroh & Mills, P.C. assists clients in matters of Probate. Probate in Alabama is governed by the local Judge of Probate for each county. The “probate process” simply is the transfer of assets after a person’s death, which can happen in different ways.

If a person passes away with a will, the will must be “probated” in order for the person’s property to be transferred to his or her beneficiaries. This process begins by petitioning the probate court to issue Letters Testamentary to the person designated as the executor or personal representative in the will. Usually, the other heirs must be contacted and either sign waivers of notice or there must be a hearing scheduled to allow for any will contest. Once the will has been entered into probate court and Letters Testamentary issued to the executor, the executor then has the power to collect all assets belonging to the deceased person. He must then pay any liabilities or expenses owed by the deceased person. The remainder of the property left over after paying any expenses of the estate are then divided according to the terms of the person’s will, which can take a minimum of six months and oftentimes much longer.

If a person passes away without a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” An intestate estate must be administered according to the probate laws of the State of Alabama. The deceased person does not have any control over how the property is to be distributed, but rather is distributed strictly as defined in the Alabama Probate Code. In the case of an intestacy, anyone may apply for Letters of Administration on the estate of deceased person; however, certain persons are given preferential treatment in being appointed as administrator, such as the spouse and children.

Typically, if a person has a will they exempt their executor from having to file a bond with the probate court. In the case of an intestacy, a bond must be filed in the amount of double the value of the estate. Wills typically give the executor the authority to do certain acts such as sell or consolidate property inside the estate. This is not the case with an administration. In the case of an intestacy administration, the administrator must apply to the probate court and get an official order to sell or exchange any of the property on behalf of the estate.