The Probate Process in Alabama
You begin the probate process by asking the court to officially make you a Personal Representative (formerly “executor”). As the estate’s Personal Representative, you must:
- File a request (called a petition) for probate in the county in which the deceased person was living during death. You will also need to file the original will (if there is one) with the court.
- Publish a notice of the probate in the local newspaper according to court rules. Mail notices to creditors you know about explaining how to file a claim against your estate.
- Mail the notice to beneficiaries and heirs, as required by the court.
- File proof you properly published and mailed the notice.
- Post a bond (if required by the court), which protects the estate from any losses you cause (up to a certain dollar amount). The bond depends on the size of the estate.
- Prove the will’s validity by providing statements from one or more witnesses to the will. This is often done by submitting the “self-proving affidavit” that was signed by the witness in front of a notary at the time the will was signed.
- File other documents required by the court. Appoint a separate attorney for each child under 19 years old who is an heir or beneficiary of your will. Mail a notice to every disinherited heir or otherwise estranged heir explaining how they, without hiring a lawyer, can contest your will.
As Personal Representative, you’re in charge of keeping estate property safe during the probate process. You will prepare a list of the deceased person’s assets and appraise assets. You’ll need to:
- Get an employer identification number for the estate from the IRS.
- Notify the Alabama Medicaid Agency of the death, if required by state law.
- Open an estate bank account.
- Arrange for preparation of income tax returns.
- Prepare and file an inventory and appraisal of estate assets unless waived.
- Mail a notice to creditors and pay debts (state law imposes a deadline on you).
- If the court requires it, file a list of creditors’ claims you have approved and denied.
- If required, file a federal estate tax return within nine months after death. (Most estates are not large enough to owe federal estate tax).
When the creditor’s claim period has passed, you’ve paid debts and filed all necessary tax returns, and any disputes have been settled, you’re ready to distribute all remaining property to the beneficiaries. You’ll need to:
- Mail a notice to heirs and beneficiaries that the final hearing is coming up unless you obtain every potential heir’s consent to waive a hearing and file with the court. (This must be done a certain period of time before the hearing; the court will have a rule.)
- File proof you mailed the notice as required.
- Get the court’s permission to distribute property.
- Transfer assets to the new owners and get receipts.
- After you distribute assets and all matters are concluded, file receipts and ask the court to release you from your duties.
Death can create a crisis of property and relationships focused on the Personal Representative. As you can see the process is fairly involved and there is plenty of opportunity for mistakes. With probate lawyer Steve Bailey guiding you through the process, offering compassionate and honest advice, you can be confident that it will be done correctly and efficiently. Contact us to guide you through estate administration.