The Process of Probate in Alabama – The How, When, and Where
Estate administration is a process with its own set of rules and terminology, and can be daunting for a person unfamiliar with its inner-workings. The first step of estate administration is the appointment of a personal representative. This is a fiduciary who inventories and collects the property of the decedent, manages and protects this property during the administration, processes claims of creditors and tax collectors, and distributes the property to those entitled to it. The court that supervises this distribution 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 named as administrator must give bond, but often the will waives the bond requirement for executors.
To open probate, an attorney will seek letters of administration in jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled at death. Letters of administration basically ask the court to appoint an administrator, or recognize the executor that was appointed as a personal representative in the will. The jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled (where he primarily lived) at death becomes the primary jurisdiction. If the decedent had real property in another jurisdiction, ancillary jurisdiction is required.
The person asking for the letters of administration can choose either formal or informal probate. Formal probate (also called notice probate) requires notice be given to interested parties. Formal proceedings are supervised by the court, and become final judgments if not appealed. Informal probate (also called ex parte probate) requires no notice, and the personal representative can administer the estate without going back to court. Informal probate is more common, since the representative is often trusted family.
Closing the estate requires that some conditions be met. The personal representative is expected to complete administration and distribute the assets as promptly as possible. All creditors must be paid, titles cleared, taxes paid, tax returns audited and accepted by authorities, and real estate or sole proprietorships sold. Judicial approval is required to relieve representation from liability.
As you can probably see, the process can get complicated for someone who is unfamiliar with the system. The attorneys at 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 Hoover, Homewood, Pell City, or anywhere else in the Birmingham area, please contact us at 205-502-2000 today for a meeting with our Birmingham legal team and let us assist you.