Probate Wills

Probate of Wills

How to Get the Process Started in Alabama

Once a testator (person who made a will) dies, the will must be probated in order to clear title, distribute assets, and close the estate. In order for this to happen, the personal representative (usually appointed in the will) must go to the court in the jurisdiction where the testator was domiciled at death and request a letter of administration or letters testamentary. This personal representative, called the executor, may then begin the process of collecting all the testator’s assets. The executor may choose whether the proceeding will be formal or informal. Under a formal probate, notice must be given to all interested parties, and the court supervises the proceeding. Under informal probate, the executor merely gets the letter of administration and swears to administer the estate properly, and doesn’t have to go back to court.  Whether they are required to perform a formal or informal probate process is usually controlled by the will itself.

If the will is ambiguous due to inartful drafting or other circumstances, then the court must interpret the will.  The basic canon of will interpretation is that courts will try and give effect to the intent of the testator. In other words, the courts try to figure out what the testator wanted or what the testator was trying to say. Sometimes the courts will get it right, sometimes it’s a near miss, and sometimes it may end up being the opposite of what the testator would have wanted. This is why it is important to make sure you select a professional, experienced probate attorney in drafting your will.

After the assets have been distributed, bills and taxes have been paid, and court approval of the process has been obtained, the executor is released from liability and the probate is closed.

If you need assistance in probating a will or you are a beneficiary facing a potential will contest, contact the attorneys at Parkman White, LLP today at 205-502-2000 for a consultation.  Whether the Last Will & Testament needs to be probated in Jefferson County, St. Clair County, Shelby County or other counties surrounding Birmingham, Alabama, our will attorneys can assist you.