Intestate Estates

Intestate Estates

What Happens When I Die in Alabama Without A Will?

When a person dies in Alabama without a will, it is referred to as dying intestate. Basically, the decedent’s property becomes subject to a set of statutory default rules governing the distribution of intestate estates which were created by Alabama politicians. The rules are designed to try and make a best guess at what the decedent would have wanted, but obviously miss the mark for some due to the highly diverse group of people that end up dying without having made a will. For this reason, it is always a good idea to draft a will and avoid intestacy.

The intestacy statutes vary by state, but most follow a common theme – if the decedent had no issue (children) or parents, then the entire estate goes to the spouse. The spouse must be formally married to the decedent. However, divorce ends the spousal relationship for purposes of intestacy. If the decedent did have children or parents, then the spouses share decreases by the fixed amount given to the children or parents. The intestacy system can actually get quite complicated when dealing with multiple generations of children and grandchildren, with different jurisdictions using different systems. In Alabama, the intestacy hierarchy is as follows:

Spouse -> Issue -> Parents -> Issue of Parents -> Grandparents -> Issue of Grandparents -> In-laws if near simultaneous death -> State

As the end of the hierarchy shows, if a person dies testate with no spouse or other family, then the decedent’s property goes to the State of Alabama.  This process is called “escheat,” and is one of the main reasons people wish to avoid intestacy by making a will.  After paying taxes you entire life, surely you don’t want all your property to go to the State! Even people with no spouse or family at all would probably rather direct their assets to a school or charity.  Again, these are the default rules for what happens if you die without a will, and there is no reason to subject your own property to them – make a will!

If a loved one has died without a will, it is advisable to retain the services of an experienced attorney knowledgeable in the laws of probate.  They can guide you through the process of administering the intestate estate.  Our Birmingham legal team can help.

The attorneys of Parkman White, LLP offer a host of probate services, including representing potential beneficiaries in will contests. If you need an intestate estate administered, or believe that you may be the rightful heir to property of an intestate estate, contact us today at 205-502-2000 for a consultation, and let us put our experience to work for you.